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Learning and Teaching should be Flexible:

Feedback and Marking

 
 
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Feedback was one of the key elements of formative assessment identified by Black and Wiliam in Inside the Black Box.    Research suggests that changes to the way feedback is given can have positive effects on attainment as well as on other aspects of education.

This paper amplifies the advice given in the Toolkit paper on Formative Assessment.   It should be read in conjunction with that paper and with others such as those on Targets, Motivation and Praise as well as the various Assessment papers.

Points Arising from Research

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Most teachers can benefit from reassessing the way they give feedback to pupils

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Giving marks or grades tends to have a negative effect, even when accompanied by helpful comments

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Good feedback improves pupil motivation

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Prompt and positive feedback, reinforcing pupils’ efforts, has been shown to raise serotonin levels (high levels of serotonin are associated with improved learning potential).

Key Elements of Feedback and Marking

Types of feedback

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Written comments:

  • should emphasise what is positive in the work

  • should identify no more than two or three main areas for improvement

  • should make suggestions as to how the improvement can be effected

  • must be clearly legible and understood by pupils (This may seem obvious, but….)

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Marks and/or grades:

  • tend to make high achievers complacent and distract from any written advice

  • tend to reinforce low achievers’ sense of failure

  • are probably best kept for teachers’ mark sheets and for formal reports, rather than being written on pupils’ work

  • must be clearly understood by pupils (and parents) when they are used

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Feedback from fellow pupils (with some training) has been found to be very effective

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Feedback can relate to short-term targets, but pupils should be aware of progress in relation to long-term goals

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The nature of the feedback depends on its purpose and its intended audience

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An important element of the process is the feedback the teacher gets from pupils

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Feedback in real situations is particularly effective (eg using a Modern Language with a native speaker, planning and carrying out a science experiment or using oral skills in a functional phone call).
 

Principles of effective feedback

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It should be related to clearly understood and agreed targets/criteria (which will be appropriate to the individual pupil)

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It should be genuine and relate to specifics (instead of being vague/general)

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It should promote dialogue and reflective self-assessment, with pupils invited to comment on the feedback

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Feedback given whilst the pupil is still engaged on the task is particularly effective

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Modelling/scaffolding before and after the task is helpful in establishing the criteria on which feedback is based

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There must be clear opportunity for the pupil to act upon advice given in feedback (and time is required for this process)

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It should focus on what the pupil has done well and then give a limited number of suggestions for improvement (no more than 3 - and possibly just one)

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Try “two stars and a wish” - two positive comments on what has been achieved and one target for improvement

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 Next steps in the learning process should clearly connect with and be influenced by feedback on a task

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Appropriate feedback for all pupils is an important element of the inclusion process

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Verbalising ideas (by both teacher and pupil) during the feedback process is very valuable

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Comparisons between pupils should be avoided since this can be demotivating
 

Other issues affecting feedback

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Feedback should be part of a culture of achievement in the classroom

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The emphasis should be on valuing what the pupil has achieved and providing encouragement

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Feedback is unlikely to be effective unless the purpose and value of the task are clearly understood and accepted by the pupil

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Paperwork should be kept to a minimum

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Planning at whole-school, department and classroom level should build in systematic assessments appropriately timed so that the value of feedback can be maximised
 

Some issues relating to marking

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More assessment is not necessarily better; more feedback is not necessarily better

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Time spent on marking should be proportionate and should not dominate the teacher’s week

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Coordinated planning and timing of assessments can ease workload

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More time spent on the preparatory stages of a task can reduce the need for remedial work

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Pupils should understand that they will eventually be judged on work completed without teacher assistance

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When it is possible to work with a pupil in class and give verbal feedback this can ease workload as well as being particularly effective

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It is not necessary to mark all errors - this can be demotivating

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Marking of selected errors (perhaps in just part of a piece of work) should be used in encouragement of a culture of self-correction

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Marking of errors should be limited to what is relevant/necessary to the purpose

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Pupils should not come to see formally marked work as the overwhelming priority in coursework

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Whole school policies on marking should be understood by pupils and parents (who can be involved in their establishment and monitoring)

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Marking codes should be used to ease workload - but these should be clearly understood by pupils (and parents

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Pupils often don’t like teachers writing on their work, but are happy to take advice in other ways - post-it notes have been used to effect (can be collected by pupil or teacher)

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General criteria can be established for all work (need to be established and reinforced early in the year), with specific ones for individual tasks

Reflection and Discussion

Does your practice make use of the principles described above?

Are there aspects of feedback which you feel you could reconsider?

What is the best way to deal with a situation when a pupil seems not to be acting upon advice given in feedback?
 

Some Activities Relating To the Issue of Feedback and Marking

Key element

Objective

Action

 

Some examples and suggestions

Types of feedback

Marks and/or grades

Many teachers have reported unease at the idea of ceasing to put grades/marks on pupils’ work. However, the evidence suggests that it is worth not giving this sort of feedback unless it is required for a specific purpose such as formal reports. Try this strategy, and stick with it for a while, even if there is resistance. Parents should be informed of what you intend to do and why.

Principles of effective feedback

It should promote dialogue and reflective self-assessment, with pupils invited to comment on the feedback

Do you give pupils opportunity to comment on the feedback they have been given? Try setting up sessions in which this is required in some form - perhaps peers commenting to each other on the feedback they have received.

Other issues affecting feedback

Feedback should be part of a culture of achievement in the classroom

Reflect on how individuals may be perceiving your valuation of their work. What sort of words do you use? Can you reduce the amount of negative comment?
Go out of your way to highlight success and give the impression that pupils are achieving well.

Some issues relating to marking

Marking of selected errors (perhaps in just part of a piece of work) should be used in encouragement of a culture of self-correction

Pupils may work to correct errors marked by the teacher, but then make the same errors in the next piece of work. Try limited “spot” marking, pressurising pupils to look for similar mistakes in the rest of a piece of work. Take time with pupils to promote a self-correction culture.

Selected References


Further Reading

The  key document is Inside the Black Box by Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam.  This is available from:  The Publications Secretary, School of Education, Kings College London, Franklin-Wilkins Building, Waterloo Road, London SE1 8WA

It can be viewed on certain websites such as:
 

Working Inside the Black Box by Black, Harrison, Lee, Marshall and Wiliam from the same source gives further insight in practical contexts.

Accelerated Learning in Practice
by Alistair Smith - Network Educational Press ISBN 1855390485
An interesting book in many ways, it has a section on “Feedback and Choice in Learning” which gives some consideration to the scientific background to research in this area.

Targeting Assessment in the Primary School by Shirley Clarke - Hodder and Stoughton ISBN 0340725311
Examines various aspects of feedback such as planning, sharing learning intentions, target setting etc.  Much of the advice is equally valid for secondary teachers.

Coordinating Assessment Practice Across the Primary School by Mike Wintle and Mike Harrison - Routledge/Falmer  ISBN 0750706988
Contains advice on the wider topic of assessment.  Includes a chapter on “Twelve principles for effective assessment”.

Marking Smarter by Highland English Working Group
Comments in detail on practicalities of marking in English teaching.
 


Websites

www.slamnet.org.uk/assessment/Hengrave%20site/howamIdoing.pdf
The Suffolk Council site contains a variety of useful material, including this excellent document on feedback, “How Am I Doing?”   This gives a list of principles behind effective feedback, together with elaboration of each principle in terms of practical contexts.

www.aaia.org.uk/
This is the website of the Association for Achievement and Improvement through Assessment.   It contains various documents of interest in relation to assessment and feedback.
An example is Shirley Clarke’s
“The Power of Focused Feedback”.


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Last updated 20/08/2010
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