I have been interested in the claims made for whole class feedback for some while, but have had some reservations. I have always seen formative assessment as a central element of teaching and learning, and providing written (as well as verbal) feedback as crucial to helping children understand what they have done well and what they need to do to improve further. I also quite like marking and enjoy both the immediate reaction of children to seeing their hard work appreciated, and their longer term journey of progress over time.
Nevertheless, while I may like marking, I don’t always like the time it takes. As I write the same comment on the fourteenth piece of work from a class, I find myself thinking that this probably wasn’t the best use of my time. As Anthony Radice wrote in this post Whole Class Feedback: A Winner All Round, it’s important for teachers to consider what else we could be doing with the time we spend in close marking like this, and whether other activities, such as planning or creating resources, might be more useful in helping pupils make progress.
With all this in mind, I agreed with my line manager that development of whole class feedback would be an objective for my performance review this year. I’ll be developing my practice in class and feeding back to the departmental team.
When and what to mark
I have decided to focus on year 8 as I have three mixed ability computing classes in this year group.
There are several types of task that these classes do:
- Work in class which will be directed to an element of a unit, for example editing sound files in a unit on podcasts, or the use of subroutines in a unit on algorithms.
- Half-termly Homework. In computing pupils choose a task for each half of each term. This is an individual project they work on for several weeks. Examples include designing a website on a theme, or designing a revision resource for a topic. Pupils work on different tasks.
- Discrete homework. These are shorter homework tasks, taking a few minutes, for example reinforcing key vocabulary, or a quiz on PEGI game ratings. They are set one lesson for completion by the next. The tasks may be differentiated, but everyone is doing the same thing.
I think some of this work lends itself more to whole class feedback. In class we are usually all working towards the same goals. It’s easy for me to pick up on good examples and also to spot errors or misconceptions. In class it makes sense to give verbal feedback to the class (as well as taking opportunities to talk to individuals. The written feedback is for myself: picking up on what happens in the lesson to better inform my teaching.
Pupils put a lot of work into the half-termly homework and I think they deserve some individual feedback from me. What I’m aiming to work on is making that feedback truly individual. Rather than repeating comments on common themes, though, I intend to note these and address them as feedback to the class.
The discrete homework tasks are usually self-marking tasks such as quizzes, so my focus is usually in picking up on what the scores mean, such as a misunderstanding of a particular concept. Often I will revisit this on teaching, rather than give specific feedback on the homework, but I’ll see if doing so is more effective.
So, that sets the scene for what I plan to do:
- Continue to use verbal in-lesson feedback as I do already, but keep better track myself of how it informs my teaching.
- Restrict individual feedback for the truly individual elements of homework projects and add whole class feedback of common learning points.
- Give whole class feedback a try for discrete tasks, where previously I might have just revisited the learning in the course of a lesson.
I’ll make sure to feedback how We get on!