The table above from Hattie suggests that feedback can have a significant impact on achievement – usually positive, but not always. So it deserves some further exploration. In this paper by Hattie & Timperley, they describe feedback as:
“….information provided by an agent (e.g., teacher, peer, book, parent, self, experience) regarding aspects of one’s performance or understanding.”
So from a classroom point of view, it’s worth considering feedback in two ways, as outlined below:
Feedback from the teacher to the student is important as it can ensure that learning is informed and so able to move forward. Similarly, the teacher should use feedback from the performance of students to inform and so adapt their teaching. The latter should happen on a number of levels:
In the lesson – when students aren’t ‘getting it’, stop and reframe the learning.
- In between lessons – so during one lesson, students may have picked up one concept but struggled with another. So for the next lesson, rather than just moving on to the next concept, go back and re-do the concept they were struggling with.
- In between units of work – after a unit of work, are there certain skills that they haven’t developed e.g. comparing the validity of evidence sources in history, that will need to be further developed in the next unit.
- Reviewing the curriculum – look at the performance across certain topics. Where they underachieved, review how this was taught. Would interleaving topics throughout the curriculum help?
The Hattie & Timperley paper raises 3 feedback question types. These are useful in terms of us reflecting on the balance of feedback that we give students:
1. Where am I going?
This involves feedback about the attainment of specific learning goals e.g. have they completed a task? Did they pass a test? How does their performance relate to previous performances?
This sort of feedback is useful in terms of setting challenging goals for the future and develops commitment, by setting the standard to be achieved e.g. “So in this unit, you achieved X, which is an improvement on last time. So for the next unit aim for Y.”
2. How am I going?
This involves information related to a task or performance goal – in relation to some expected standards. This is the sort of feedback that we give to students during a lesson, as they are working on a task. It is most useful when it’s about progress and how best to proceed e.g. “I like the way you have described the trend in the graph. Now to improve it further, you need to use your knowledge to explain the trend.”
3. Where to next?
This provides information that leads to greater possibilities for learning. So, having mastered one aspect, how can they be encouraged to deepen and extend their learning further? So this enhances challenges and encourages students to take ownership of their learning – by encouraging them to find out more e.g. “So now that you understand the process of genetic engineering, what do you think are the moral and ethical implications of it?”
Having considered these 3 types of feedback, they then go on to consider the 4 levels of feedback that usually take place in a classroom:
1. Feedback on the task or product
Very simply, is their work correct or incorrect? This is important as it builds surface knowledge. It’s essential that students have a ‘bank’ of surface knowledge if they are then going to develop this into deeper learning i.e. they need to know ‘stuff’ if they are then going to be able do things with this ‘stuff’.
2. Feedback based on the process used to create the product
So this is feedback on what they are doing with the knowledge e.g. “you need to edit this work in order to…. you need to redraft this in order to include more connectives etc“. The important part of this is that it facilitates error detection and correction – so supporting deeper learning.
3. Feedback based on self-regulation
This encourages self regulation and so the confidence to engage with the learning further – so building confidence and aspiration e.g. “You’ve described what digestion is well here, you now need to go on and explain how it happens with enzymes.”
4. Feedback aimed at a personal level
This is not based on the task and is rarely effective. It will include comments such as “You’re very intelligent……you’ve done really well……you’re concentrating well“. If they are going to be effective, they should focus on the effort and how well the student is focused and engaged on the task.
To summarise – some points to consider
- Is our teaching (within and between lessons) and curriculum planning responsive, based on the performance of students?
- Do we use a good variety of feedback, that encourages students to consider – Where am I going? How am I going? Where to next?
- Do we focus our feedback on – the task, the process and encouraging self regulation?
- Is personal feedback focused on the effort and hard work that students put in to their work?