Saturday, 7 July 2012

Creating an environment for 'Feedback'

Over the last year, our Learning and Teaching group (LTG) has been focusing on three areas that we felt needed developing further after our last Ofsted inspection.  To look at these in more detail, we created three 'cells' within the team and adopted a focus each.  One group looked at 'Level 4 Boys: Raising boys achievement', another at 'Differentiation' and the cell I headed up looked at 'Oral and Written feedback'.  We would spend two terms creating ideas or strategies, trial them in our classrooms and monitor the impact, and then share them at a 'Learning & Teaching Marketplace' with the middle leaders of our school.

When we were issued our brief, there was a link to Dweck's 'Growth Mindset' and how could we develop this with our learners.  The link was there because we want them to learn from this feedback and actively want to improve.  We also had to be conscious that across the whole school there were a number of action groups in place and strategies for oral and written feedback was one of their aims. 

So with this in mind, we decided to let the focus group find strategies, whilst we looked at:
  • Ways to involve every student in an effective system of oral and written feedback
  • Ways to actually provide feedback for the learning that takes place, as well as the content that is learnt
  • Ways to create an ethos or culture of learning in the classroom
  • Ways that promote the giving and receiving of feedback as an essential part of the learning process (and develop a growth mindset)
So, the team came up with a number of initial ideas and went away and trialled them.  Anything we did had to be easy enough for staff to adopt and effective enough to warrant them using it.  Evidence of impact was not collected by means of data, but through teachers self-reflection and reviews of their lessons.  As we came back to meetings, we scrutinised their effectiveness and a number of additional ideas evolved. 

Finally, we created the following resource that we shared with middle leaders at our 'Learning & Teaching Marketplace'.  After reading the comments forms after the event, it seems that the marketplace was a huge success.  A number of particular mentions of our presentation was commented on with leaders indicating that they would be embedding our ideas from next September.

A summary of the ideas we developed:

No Hands Up Rule: We found that a number of students still didn't contribute to lessons, either through questioning, discussions or giving feedback.  The strategy is rather simple then.  Instead of allowing hands up (which Dweck found a lot of fixed learners thrive in), the teacher picks those to contribute.  Therefore, in any part of the lesson where feedback from learners is required, the teacher can facilitate and involve every student.  We found that after  numerous lessons doing this, learners felt more confident to do this and were all able to contribute without feeling pressured or put on the spot.  All learners were able to contribute and a culture of involvement was created.  Our AST Neil Chance developed this further and added an 'ABC' process.  When feedback was given by an individual, other students could Add, Build upon or Challenge the comments that were being made.  As a result, feedback got more detailed and more specific.

Stuck Walls: Talked about in an earlier post (click here), this is a resource in the form of a poster or criteria that is displayed in classrooms.  Normally, if a student is stuck, they have to find the answer from three other sources (can be a book, peer, resource, notes).  Isn't this resilience or independent learning?  Yes, but we did it for feedback.  I personally have students who say "Sir, can you check this is right?" at which I then pointed at the display and said "Can your partner or your table team or someone from another table review it and give you feedback?  Can you not get two separate people to evaluate it and both give you feedback?".  Supports growth mindset and creates a culture of peer assessment.

3 Plus Me rule: The same as the stuck walls but without a display.  Instead of a resource, it is a general rule that work needs to be evaluated by various people in the class before the teacher checks it.  Hopefully, after peers have reviewed it, the final piece that reaches 'me' is an excellent piece of work and students have learnt how to produce it.

Effort and process reward cards: One of the favourites!  Talked about before here.  Does all feedback have to be about the work they produce?  Surely if students are working in a particularly effective way, or have used a very good strategy or even put in a lot of effort, we can reward them?  Highlight this way of working enough and they start to develop good learner habits.  I know when I do something in a way that works and someone gives me positive feedback on it, I'll do it again.  Simply, have a number of small cards with with key learner qualities, attributes or 'good habits' on.  Hand them out to students when you spot these.  Instant feedback on the way they worked.  We (probably against some research somewhere!) gave them merits at the end when they traded the card in.  What this also did is allowed us to have a learning conversation.  Invaluable!

Feedback first: Not revolutionary.  Simply, when we provide feedback, we simply gave feedback.  Grades and praise were kept aside until later.  Very closely linked to Dweck's work.  If we gave the praise or grades, learners look at that and ignore the worthwhile comments.  No improvements are made.  Grades first also promotes fixed learners who use grades as a symbol of intelligence.  We therefore use this to stop that.

Peer and self assessment: Again, nothing revolutionary.  By marking the work of others you increase your own understanding of the topic.  You have to or you can't assess it effectively.  You also learn other individuals ways of working and good learner habits.  I used this with a Year 10 PSE class when looking at writing personal statements and the improvements from first draft to second draft was immense.  Same system works for self assessment using mark schemes, rubrics or success criteria's.  Allows you to see what has been done or what needs to be done to improve: Feedback & Feedforward.

Critique: Another one of our favourites but very much in the infancy here at Brookfield.  A culture or ethos of gathering feedback to achieve excellence rather than an activity to put in the middle of your lesson.  Requires specific, helpful and kind analysis of work.  Comments given are hard on content and soft on people.  Can use an 'example of excellence' to help strive for perfection.  Involves a cycle of draft, get work critiqued, act upon suggestions, redraft, get work critiqued, act upon.......  One we will definitely be developing more before sharing out further.  See Ron Berger's 'Ethic of Excellence' book.

SOLO Taxonomy: But this isn't feedback, it's a taxonomy?  Correct but its very nature strives on feedback and feedforward.  Either by self, peer or teacher analysis, you can easily gain an understanding in either oral or written form that helps students develop and make progress.  If you hadn't guessed, its also one of our favourites.  More posts on this and in more detail are here.

So, we found that these helped create an environment where feedback, either in oral and written form, worked for us.  I am sure, like always, that there is research that contradicts these methods, or even methods that have more of an impact.  But, in our manageable in house trials, we found these to work with the learners we have.  As usual, we will continue to reflect and review these process, whilst looking for additional methods to promote the culture of feedback in lessons.

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