The eternal quest to find the perfect feedback balance is something teachers at all levels wrestle with both at a strategic and day-to-day level. In this week’s teaching forum head of art and technology Gail Christie shares an insight into how teachers use formative feedback in her department.
The research evidence behind the power of feedback, and particularly formative feedback, is extremely strong, and comes from several sources, be that John Hattie’s meta-analysis, the EEF toolkit, Daisy Christodoulou, or Dylan Wiliam. However, the devil lies in the detail and the positive effects only relate to good feedback, in fact when it goes wrong the positive effects can quickly be reserved. This problem is supported by a meta-analysis by Kluger and DeNisi which found that 38% of feedback studies included actually had negative effects.
When picking through the feedback minefield I always find it useful to keep this particular Dylan Wiliam quote in mind:
“The first fundamental of effective classroom feedback is that feedback should be more work for the recipient than the donor.”
Gail’s approach to formative feedback certainly abides to this principle. The art and technology departments create a reciprocal feedback loop with their students through which precise feedback from the teacher allows students to make specific improvements to develop their work, and deepen their knowledge, skill and understanding.
The department use a variety of feedback mediums, which include:
- Post-its stuck into sketch books giving formative comments (several examples included in this blog).
- Back-of-sketchbook checklists in which a few formative targets are included for self-regulation (also included below).
- Constant verbal feedback during lessons.
- Whole class feedback using worked examples.
- Peer verbal feedback.
All of these strategies have the potential to go wrong, so the way Gail’s team ensures effectiveness is through explicit teaching of the strategies and modelling of the processes. For example, in most lessons an excellent example will be shared with the class. Students will gather round and critique the work. The teacher will lead the students through this initially but as time goes on the students will take a greater and greater role in the feedback being given. This then allows them to give more useful and accurate feedback when working with their peers.
Ultimately, the success of the formative feedback relies on a strong culture, like so much of what works in the department. The processes are used from year 7 so that by the time students are in GCSE classes they are familiar with the expectations and procedures. Similarly, the comments in the sketchbooks work due to the pride and care students take with these books, and with the constant additions and revisions they make to them.
The message here then is a fairly simple one. If formative feedback is to have the positive effect we all know it can we need to ensure a few key principles exemplified by the art and technology department:
- Make it precise.
- Use a variety of different mediums to transmit it.
- Explicitly teach how to provide and use it.
- Ensure students value and use it.
Posted by Chris Runeckles