Wednesday 27 June 2012

Acting upon feedback

In my last post I reflected on my teaching and realised that although I feel I give effective feedback and share it in a way that works for my class, I don't feel learners actually do anything with it.  This was a bit of a wake up call and only came about after a Twitter discussion with @Totallywired77 @Learningspy and @Teachitso.  It was in this discussion that I realised that I need to build in actual time for learners to act upon this feedback and improve this work.  As a result, I came up with a list of things I could trial with my Year 10 GCSE PE theory class in the final term before implementing the best learning ingredients from September.  For those of you who haven't read the post, here is a summary of ideas:

1.   Spend more time on the reflection element of my lessons to give self, peer or teacher assessment.  They need to know what to work on.
2.   Build in actual dedicated time for learners to act upon feedback.  A purposeful time where learners can actual improve their learning with structure and support in place.
3.   Use SOLO taxonomy more.  A phenomenal way for students to monitor and track progress.  Uses success criteria to highlight depth of knowledge.  Allows both feedback and feedforward which is essential if learners are to make progress.  Clearly shows what learners need to work on to develop their knowledge and understanding of a topic.
4.   Use more 'Success Criteria'.  Helps scaffold and highlight what learners need to do/understand/master if they are to become successful in a particular topic.  This structure is a key part of SOLO taxonomy.
5.   'Critical Buddies'.  Pair learners up in lessons.  Teach them how to critically analyse, evaluate and feedback to each other (A bit of learning to learn teaching me thinks!).
6.   Make acting upon feedback compulsory and bring parents more into the loop.  I currently use Edmodo but need to do this more effectively.
7.   Do a similar task again to see progress, improvement or areas needing attention.  I do this in lessons (with a before and after task using the 'Accelerated Learning Cycle') but could build in more tasks throughout a unit where they could use their knowledge again and check improvement.

So, with the ideas mapped out, it was time to implement them.  Because of my strong feeling towards this area I decided to take action straight away and used them in my very next theory lesson.  During this lesson, learners would receive back their unit test which had been marked, except for the long answer scenario question at the end.  I specifically didn't mark this as it was evident that they had answered it badly (becase I have never shown them how to answer them) and this could turn into a real learning opportunity.

So I went a planned a two lesson learning experience that would ultimately help them answer long answer questions and then teach them how to give feedback more effectively, using Critique (from the inspirational Ron Berger).  In the first lesson, I paired students up with a 'Critical Buddy'.  For this purpose I selected the groupings based on friendship groups (by avoiding them!), pairing growth learners with fixed learners and pairing students who have weaknesses with a partner who has that as a strength.  I then did a blind task, and using the mark scheme, I got them to give feedback on their partners long answer question from the exam.  To be honest, at first glance, they seemed to write a number of points.  It wasn't the 'well done, good piece of work' that I was worried I'd get.  I then asked students to hand back their feedback to their buddy and verbally talk them through what was good with their answer, what wasn't so good and what needs to be done to develop their answer further (feedback & feedforward).  It is safe to say that here is where it became apparent that the feedback wasn't very helpful.

A number of students had generally tried to give structured pointers and suggestions of improvements.  As anticipated, the level of feedback wasn't very specific and didn't actually map out a way to progress or improve.  There was also the usual 'well done' and other points of praise that didn't structure any areas to improve.

As a class we analysed these comments and realised that most of the comments weren't effective in helping anyone make progress or improve the quality of their work.  I then introduced the process of Critique. 
Critique lesson
Selected slides I used for introducing critique
We went through the main points and talked about the fact that any comment need to:
  • Be helpful
  • Be specific 
  • Be kind
I made the point that the comments you get should reinforce the sections in the work that were completed effectively (either the detail, the process or the effort).  These things should have a fuss made about them so learners get into good habits and do these over and over again.  I also said that you should be highlighting areas for improvement.  These should be a sort of 'instructions manual' that helps map out what things need work.  I also talked about being 'hard on content and soft on people'.  This is a really crucial rule as we want learners to embrace this process and see that acting upon feedback is vital, not deject them with harsh and unfair comments.

Improved analysis through critique

So, with critique introduced, students went off and started to critique each others work again.  There was silence in the room as individuals really assessed the work.  As I observed, students were really getting engrossed in the process and thinking very hard about what to write.  At the end of this stage I got students to share the new and improved comments they had made.  The difference was amazing.  Students had now been very specific and given detailed instructions of how to meet the success criteria of the task and improve their work. 

One comment was still vague by saying "he needs to improve more detail".  When as a class we unpicked this, we identified what exact detail it was that the student needed to improve.  Lastly, I asked them to take these comments and use them to re-draft their work again.  I was waiting for a grumble or comment of "can't we just add to it" but it never came.  What they didn't finish in lesson, I asked them to do for homework (again, no grumbles!).

Students re-drafting their work in the lesson and using the critique given to them by their partner.

The next lesson I started by asking students to sit with their buddies again.  They got out their re-drafted work and gave it to their partner.  They read through the work again and highlighted the areas which had been improved based on the previous critique.  They also used annotated where the work had used the structure for the long answer questions I had taught them.  They then fed back to their peer and explained what had improved since last time, but what specific elements still needed work.  We then reviewed it as a class and looked at the progress of this process.  All of the students (honestly!!) that I questioned were able to explain the quality of their work.  They were also able to explain what sections of their work needed improving, and, which of the critique instructions from last lesson they had achieved or not.  I feel at this point if I had asked them to re-draft it again they would of!
Follow up critique lesson
Selected slides I used at the start of the next lesson
I have to say, that although this is very basic critique and still has a lot of work to do, the quality of the analysis was much better than when we used simple peer assessment.  Comments were more specific and more like a set of instructions.  They all linked to achieving excellence in that piece of work.  And most improtantly, I was told very wisely, that critique is more of an ethos or culture than a task.  I believe that my class has bought into that culture and now its up to me to develop it!

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