Helping students to course-correct
How’s tricks? Have you been exit ticketing? This week, we’re wrapping up our series on responsive teaching with a snack on effective feedback. Let’s go…
Big idea 🍉
Responsive teaching isn’t just about helping teachers to course-correct—it's also about helping students to course correct. Which is why giving students feedback can be such a powerful strategy for learning.
Feedback is simply any process where students get information on their thinking or performance. However, not all kinds of feedback lead to improved learning—some can even be detrimental. In general, we can increase the chances that feedback is effective by ensuring it is:
Objective Emphasise subject knowledge or approaches to learning, rather than casting vague judgements on students themselves. “There are no capital letters at the start of these sentences” rather than “you must try harder Alexa”.
Constructive Don’t just tell students how they did on a task—help them understand how they can do better in future tasks. “There are no capital letters at the start of these sentences. Next time, go back and check at the same time you’re sweeping for full stops.”
Manageable If we give too much feedback at any one time, it can easily be disregarded. For greatest impact, it’s best to focus on the smallest things that will make the biggest difference to future efforts.
Providing feedback isn’t enough by itself. We also need to ensure students have opportunities to put it into practice—such as by reworking their original task or by applying their refined understanding to new questions.
And finally, when we give feedback can also influence student learning. The research on this aspect is too inconclusive to be highly confident in any particular approach, but in general:
For more corrective feedback (where we’re helping a student to see if they’re right or wrong), sooner is better.
For more developmental feedback (where we’re helping a student to understand how they might change their approach), introducing a delay can sometimes be beneficial.
(The reasons why delaying can work are because (A) it can be hard for students to ‘step back’ in the moment, and (B) introducing a delay can exploit retrieval effects)
Note → Feedback doesn’t always have to come from the teacher. It can come from a textbook, some software, a peer, or even the student themselves. However, the feedback must be accurate, and all the above principles still apply.
Caveat → The power of feedback is heavily dependent on having a classroom culture where students feel it is safe to make (and be open about) mistakes. If someone feels they will be ridiculed, they will clam up, bury their errors, and likely resist any feedback that comes their way.
Challenge → How do you approach feedback in your classroom? Are there ways it could be even more objective, constructive, and manageable?
Little links 🥕
On trend → This week, we have a new paper on the (positive) effect of pre-testing on learning, a (promising) evaluation of the High Performing Schools programme, and study exploring how children can sometimes perpetuate inequality when helping their peers.
As always, if you ever have any feedback for me, do send it over :)
PS. I’m super pumped to announce that Snacks PRO—an upgrade for those of you keen to take your evidence informed journey to the next level—will be dropping this weekend 😱🚀🥳