How can we make feedback active rather than transmissive? How can we encourage students to engage with feedback so that they become self-regulated and curiosity driven?
Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick (2006) argue that with a “proactive” approach, using and generating feedback in this way can have “profound implications for the way in which teachers support learning” and that this can be used to “empower students as self-regulated learners” which ultimately allows students to “internalise meaning and make connections with what is already known”.
According to Lipstein and Renninger (2007), there are four phases of learning. I used these to help guide how to present feedback to students – ultimately, to make feedback successful, as well as support a student with specific help on a specific piece of work, it also ought to cultivate the ability to be reflective, even if only the concept of what needs to be achieved is understood.
Phase 1: Triggered situational interest
Fleetingly perceives content of interest
Phase 2: Maintained situational interest
Re-engages with the content and is supported by others to reflect on it
Phase 3: Emerging situational interest
Seeks repeated engagement independently
Phase 4: Well-developed individual interest
Seeks repeated engagement and asks curiosity questions
Here are some of the most successful feedback approaches I have tried and tested in the classroom.
- Development questioning
Annotate students’ work with specific numbered questions that link to the skills you are assessing. For example, if a student is analysing the presentation of Curley’s Wife and has neglected to include context, perhaps a question might be: can you explain in three sentences, using our key vocab list, what the role of women was in 1930s America? Rather than starting cold, use whole class questioning to develop reflections and prior knowledge, after which students answer their own given questions either verbally as pairs or in their books.
2. Whole class feedback (not using a sheet!)
Whole class feedback sheets are interesting because they seek to help teacher work load, as well as provide individual feedback in a ‘whole class’ framework. I have followed the three steps above and completed quick feedback starter activities that highlight my findings from the reading of the students’ work. These three steps also work very effectively for self and peer reflection activities. Rather than filling out a whole sheet, following these steps for the whole class can be very fruitful if used as as a discussion tool.
3. Revising a concept
This is a very effective means of feedback and can follow on directly from #2. My approach involves identifying something that my students can do well, but not with mastery. We then work together on refining it to a high level. For example, writing an answer to the presentation of power in My Last Duchess: we looked specifically at using feminist theory vocabulary. This immediately lifted students’ writing style to something more concise and meaningful. They are then expected to apply this focus to new texts.
4. Model marking
Every good teacher uses models to take students through the process of working out an answer and writing one up. In order to encourage reflective thinking, I have started to use models both before and after students have completed their own. This creates a sense of ongoing progress, rather than providing feedback and then moving on to the next thing. The most valuable aspect of this process is using checklists to ensure students can continue to reference the skills they are required to show. Here is an example of a before and after looking at two models either side of the assessed piece; the second picture is of the final answer.