As part of my work, I was tasked to find and synthesise research on feedback. Below is what I have found and may make for some interesting reading for some or be useful to direct members of SLT to if they have not yet embraced a limited/no marking policy. Some appendix items have been removed as these were obtained through visiting a school and is their intellectual property. Everything else is available publicly. Enjoy
Feedback – What the Research Says
When thinking about effective feedback, it is important to consider and carefully balance student achievement, student motivation and teacher workload. While on the surface the act of providing students with feedback may seem quite straight forward, the research into this topic can often be confusing and contradictory.
Before looking at the evidence base, I think it is important to have a shared meaning as what the purpose of feedback is. From this, progress can then be made on realising what the purpose of feedback is. I believe Dylan Wiliam, as stated in Hendrick and Macpherson’s ‘What Does This Look Like in The Classroom,’ offers the “…too many teachers focus on the purpose of feedback as changing or improving the work, whereas the major purpose of feedback should be to improve the student.” In other words, the purpose of feedback is not to make retrospective changes to work but to allow the students to get better at work they have not yet attempted.
Too often, teacher’s efforts focus mainly on improving a child’s current piece of work in the hope that this may then have the knock-on effect on future work, rather than looking at it from the perspective of developing continuous development of the pupil. It is through this lens that this evidence review has taken place. It should also be noted that the evidence base for feedback often lacks studies that have been conducted over long periods of time or within a primary classroom so some finding may not translate well to our context but may be worth the working party pursuing.
Summary of positive and negative external research:
The act of giving feedback does not equate to students making progress. In some cases the act of giving feedback has zero impact on increasing attainment or in some instances even decreases attainment (Kluger and Denissi, 1996). Further to this, they also found that while some feedback may increase short-term task performance, these gains did not translate into long-term learning gains. While not directly comparable with a classroom situation, this meta-analysis found that on 38% of occasion, feedback decreased pupil performance.
Elliot, V et al (2016) in their marking analysis acknowledge the lack of good quality research into marking practices and that the available research is often done in FE or ESL conditions. But they argue that these may be some ‘best bets’.
- Careless mistakes (defined as mistakes on which the student does actually know what to do) should be fedback to differently to errors due to misunderstanding (errors as a result of the student not knowing the content.) E.g. If a paragraph contained 3 errors with capital letters – and the teacher is confident in the students use of capital letters – the feedback given should be on the lines of, ‘ There are 3 capital letter mistakes in this work, find them and correct them.’ If the teacher knows that a student has low-prior knowledge of capital letters, then offering cues and questioning the student to solve the errors.
- Awarding a grade with a formative comment significantly reduces the effectiveness of the comment, to near zero. If teachers are marking extended pieces of writing with which to give a grade (working at, working towards etc) these should not include formative comments on how to improve. These would typically come at the end of the learning journey.
- Pupils are unlikely to benefit from feedback unless time is set aside to enable pupils to consider and respond to the feedback – see good practice in other schools for what this may look like in the classroom.
- Use of targets for future learning is likely to increase progress.
- Some forms of marking, including acknowledgement marking, are unlikely to enhance pupil progress.
Teachers should be aware that we may feedback to students for different purposes and teachers should be mindful of which reason they are providing the feedback for. Feedback is a careful balancing act between motivating the student to do work and improving the long-term impact on work quality. For example, in Elliott, V et al (2016) mention that ‘tick and flick’ marking is unlikely to increase student long-term learning. However, it makes sense to think that there is a motivational affect in students receiving this type of feedback. Pupils feeling successful in their academic work, is likely to spur them on to continue in their work due to the dopamine we are rewarded with when we successfully solve problems (Willingham, 2010). So stopping all ‘tick and flick’ marking, including verbal feedback which acknowledges correct answers have been given would be a poor idea, it is something that teachers should have complete autonomy over and a set amount of ‘tick and flick’ should not be expected to be seen in books.
Immediate vs delayed feedback:
Research into this area is often contradictory depending on the set up of the study. For example, where studies have provided immediate feedback and then a follow up test was taken immediately afterwards, performance increased but very few studies look to see if this translates into a long-term impact. There is an increasing amount evidence that suggest delaying feedback could be far more effective in delivering long-term gains (Bjork and Soderstrom, 2015). It is here that teachers (and leaders) know the difference between performance and long-term learning and that just because pupils are performing very successfully in a lesson, this will not necessarily transfer to long-term gains. Indeed, it could be the case that the students who seem to perform less well than others, actually improves their long-term retention and learning.
One other potential danger of immediate and frequent feedback, is that students soon become conditioned to expecting it and overly relying on it during knowledge acquisition, and this is then taken away in final tests causing performance to decrease.
Highlights from the research literature on this conclude:
- Reducing the frequency of feedback during knowledge acquisition can impair performance but enhance long-term learning. Schooler and Ansderson, 1990.
- Providing feedback when answers were correct, made little difference to later learning. Pashler, et al, 2005.
- Delaying corrective feedback to multiple choice questions enhanced learning when compared to immediate feedback. This was suggested to be because it creates a natural spacing effect and time for pupils to forget their incorrect answers. Kulhavy and Anderson, 1972.
- The delayed-feedback approach has been replicated in certain areas that apply to classroom situations, namely learning prose (Butler, et al, 2007), geographical representations (Guzman-Monuzo and Johnson, 2007 – they argue ‘tasks for which complex relations or patterns are to be learned might benefit from delayed feedback—even at the risk of an increase of errors—when that feedback conveys relational knowledge and directs the learner to those aspects of the knowledge needing study.’) and vocabulary, the latter showing this happening with school aged children (Metcalfe, et al, 2009)
- Children prefer immediate feedback. However, just because they prefer it does not mean that it should be done.
- This delayed-feedback effect is also evident in John Hattie’s (2007) work where delayed feedback has an effect size of 0.34 compared to immediate feedback with an effect size of 0.24.
- Delayed feedback appears superior to immediate feedback only when delayed feedback is presented in a complete trial, wholly separate from the acquisition trial. In other words, it is more beneficial when peer marking a spelling test in Y2 to do the test in the morning and then peer/self mark in the afternoon. This, as mentioned previously, is because it creates two occasions on seeing the words but also allows students to ‘forget’ their initial responses.
- It should also be noted that this is the opposite to what it says in the handbook as it currently stands which gives credence to immediate feedback.
The Power of Feedback – John Hattie and Helen Timperley
It is worth spending some time on this paper specifically as it provides an interesting insight into feedback, specifically in a classroom context. Highlights include:
- To be powerful in its effect, there must be a learning context to which feedback is addressed
- It is most powerful when it addresses faulty interpretations – Teachers therefore need to be mindful if students would benefit from complete reteaching of a concept or if feedback will be enough to get the student back on track.
- Feedback is more effective if not too much is given out.
- It appears that the power of feedback is influenced by the direction of the feedback relative to performance on a task.
- Effective feedback must answer three major questions asked by a teacher and/or by a student: Where am I going? (What are the goals?), How am I going? (What progress is being made toward the goal?), and Where to next? (What activities need to be undertaken to make better progress?)
- They offer this model to enhance learning through feedback, which will be explained below.
Where Am I Going?
- Goals can promote goal-directed action. As Black and Wiliam (1998) concluded, “the provision of challenging assignments and extensive feedback lead to greater student engagement and higher achievement” (p. 13).
- Feedback needs to be directly related to the goal. ‘ Too often, the feedback given is unrelated to achieving success on critical dimensions of the goal. For example, students are given feedback on presentation, spelling, and quantity in writing when the criteria for success require, say, “creating mood in a story.”
- Goals are more effective when students share a commitment to attaining them, because they are more likely to seek and receive feedback.
How Am I Going?
- Involves a teacher (or peer, task, or self) providing information relative to a task or performance goal, often in relation to some expected standard, to prior performance, and/or to success or failure on a specific part of the task.
- Feedback is effective when it consists of information about progress, and/or about how to proceed.
- Too often, attention to this question leads to assessment or testing, whereas this is not the fundamental conception underlying this question.
Where to Next?
- Instruction often is sequential, with teachers providing information, tasks, or learning intentions; students attempting tasks; and some subsequent consequence. Too often, the consequence is more information, more tasks, and more expectations.
- The power of feedback, however, can be used to specifically address this question by providing information that leads to greater possibilities for learning. These may include enhanced challenges, more self-regulation over the learning process, greater fluency and automaticity, more strategies and processes to work on the tasks, deeper under- standing, and more information about what is and what is not understood
The Focus of Feedback: The Four Level
- First, feedback can be about a task or product, such as whether work is correct or incorrect. This levelof feedback may include directions to acquire more, different, or correct information such as “You need to include more about the Treaty of Versailles.” Referred to as FT.
- Second, feedback can be aimed at the process used to create a product or complete a task. This kind of feedback is more directly aimed at the processing of information, or learning processes requiring under- standing or completing the task. For example, a teacher or peer may say to a learner, “You need to edit this piece of writing by attending to the descriptors you have used so the reader is able to understand the nuances of your meaning,” Referred to as FP.
- Third, feedback to students can be focused at the self-regulation level, including greater skill in self-evaluation or confidence to engage further on a task. For example, “You already know the key features of the opening of an argument. Check to see whether you have incorporated them in your first paragraph.” Such feedback can have major influences on self-efficacy, self-regulatory proficiencies, and self- beliefs about students as learners, such that the students are encouraged or informed how to better and more effortlessly continue on the task. Referred to as FR.
- Fourth, feed- back can be personal in the sense that it is directed to the “self,” which, we argue below, is too often unrelated to performance on the task. Examples of such feed- back include “You are a great student” and “That’s an intelligent response, well done.” Referred to as FS.
- FS is the least effective.
- FR and FP are powerful for deep processing and mastery of tasks.
- FT is powerful when the task information is useful for improving strategy processing or enhancing self-regulation.
Feedback about the task (FT)
- If students lack the necessary knowledge, reteaching would be more appropriate than providing feedback.
- Feedback aimed to move students from task to processing and then from processing to regulation is most effective.
- FT that provides very specific information about the correctness of the specifics of a tasks and is not also directed to the processing required to complete the task can direct attention below the level necessary for high-level performance and thus interfere with task accomplishment.
- Simple rather than complex FT tends to be more effective. E.g. students with reading passages and multiple-choice items with increasingly complex feedback provided. First, they were given the correct answer, and then they discussed the four incorrect responses. Each sentence of the passage was subsequently read and used to explain why one of the error choices was incorrect, and finally the relevant section of the passage in which the correct answer was identified. The less complex feedback that provided the correct answer resulted in higher levels of subsequent task performance than the more complex versions of the feedback, for which the effect was small.
- Feedback through comments alone led to learning gains, whereas marks alone or comments accompanied by marks or giving praise did not. R Butler, 1988.
- Feedback that mixes FS with FT is less effective than FT by itself.
Feedback about the processing of a task (FP)
- Feedback at the process level appears to be more effective than at the task level for enhancing deeper learning.
- A major type of FP relates to students’ strategies for error detection, thus providing oneself with feedback.
- Feedback information about the processes underlying a task also can act as a cueing mechanism and lead to more effective information search and use of task strategies. Cues are most useful when they assist students in rejecting erroneous hypotheses and provide direction for searching and strategizing.
- There can be a powerful interactive effect between feedback aimed at improving the strategies and processes and feedback aimed at the more surface task information. The latter can assist in improving task confidence and self- efficacy, which in turn provides resources for more effective and innovative information and strategy searching (Earley et al., 1990).
Feedback about Self-Regulation (FR)
- Self-regulation involves an interplay between commitment, control, and confidence.
- six major aspects of FR that mediate the effectiveness of feed- back. These include the capability to create internal feedback and to self-assess, the willingness to invest effort into seeking and dealing with feedback information, the degree of confidence or certainty in the correctness of the response, the attributions about success or failure, and the level of proficiency at seeking help.
- Less effective learners have minimal self-regulation strategies, and they depend much more on external factors (such as the teacher or the task) for feedback. They rarely seek or incorporate feedback in ways that will enhance their future learning or self-regulation strategies.
- It is important not to confuse feelings that feedback is desirable with the question of whether feed- back benefits performance.
- Feedback has its greatest effect when a learner expects a response to be correct and it turns out to be wrong.
- Effort feedback appears to be credible in the early stages of learning, when students need to expend effort to succeed.
- When considering how to develop instrumental help-seeking behavior, it is important to keep in mind it is mediated by emotional factors. Many students do not seek help because of perceived threats to self-esteem or social embarrassment.
Feedback about the Self as a Person (FS)
- Personal feedback, such as “Good girl” or “Great effort,” typically expresses positive (and sometimes negative) evaluations and affect about the student (Brophy, 1981). It usually contains little task-related information and is rarely converted into more engagement, commitment to the learning goals, enhanced self-efficacy, or understanding about the task.
- FS can have an impact on learning only if it leads to changes in students’ effort, engagement, or feelings of efficacy in relation to the learning or to the strategies they use when attempting to understand tasks.
- Kluger and DeNisi (1998) also reported a similarly low effect size for praise (0.09) and found that no praise has a greater impact on achievement (0.34).
- It is important, however, to distinguish between praise that directs attention away from the task to the self (because such praise has low information value to achievement and learning) and praise directed to the effort, self-regulation, engagement, or processes relating to the task and its performance (e.g., “You’re really great because you have diligently completed this task by applying this concept”).
- younger student perceived praise after success as an indication of high ability and criticism after failure as a sign of low ability.
Using the Four Levels and Three Questions to Untangle Some Thorny Feedback Issues – Feedback timing
- Immediate error correction during task acquisition (FT) can result in faster rates of acquisition, whereas immediate error correction during fluency building can detract from the learning of automaticity and the associated strategies of learning (FP).
- Kulik and Kulik (1988) reported that at the task level (i.e., testing situations), some delay is beneficial (0.36), but at the process level (i.e., engaging in processing classroom activities), immediate feedback is beneficial (0.28).
- The effects of immediate feedback are likely to be more powerful for FT and delayed feedback more powerful for FP was provided by Clariana, Wagner, and Roher Murphy (2000). They found that the effectiveness of delayed compared with immediate feedback varied as a function of the difficulty of items in their test of information taught in a series of lessons. The effect sizes from delayed feedback were –0.06 for easy items, 0.35 for midrange items, and 1.17 for difficult items. These authors suggested that difficult items are more likely to involve greater degrees of processing about the task, and delayed feedback provides the opportunity to do this, whereas easy items do not require this processing and so delay is both unnecessary and undesirable.
Using the Four Levels and Three Questions to Untangle Some Thorny Feedback Issues – Positive and negative feedback
- Negative feedback is more powerful at the self-level, and both types can be effective as FT, but there are differential effects relating to commitment, mastery or performance orientation, and self-efficacy at the FR level.
- At the self-level (FS), it has already been noted that no praise is more effective than praise if accompanied by FT. Furthermore, there is much evidence to suggest that negative feedback or disconfirmation can be more potent than positive feed- back or confirmation at this self-level.
- Feedback, however, is not “the answer”; rather, it is but one powerful answer. With inefficient learners, it is better for a teacher to provide elaborations through instruction than to provide feedback on poorly understood concepts. If feedback is directed at the right level, it can assist students to comprehend, engage, or develop effective strategies to process the information intended to be learned. To be effective, feedback needs to be clear, purposeful, meaningful, and compatible with students’ prior knowledge and to provide logical connections.
- It also needs to prompt active information processing on the part of learners, have low task complexity, relate to specific and clear goals, and provide little threat to the person at the self-level. The major discriminator is whether it is clearly directed to the task, processes, and/or regulation and not to the self-level.
- These conditions highlight the importance of classroom climates that foster peer and self-assessment and allow for learning from mistakes.
Prior Knowledge and its impact on feedback
- There is mounting evidence to suggest that feedback affects children of different prior attainment differently. Notably studies by R. Fyfe, B. Little-Johnson in 2015 and 2016 have demonstrated that those students who have a high-prior knowledge about the topic (seen through pre-test) perform better on a delayed test after instruction when no feedback was given. Conversely, those who had weak prior knowledge about a topic did not perform well when no feedback was given in the follow up test. This was truer for older age students than younger students. The study refers to 2nd and 3rd graders. So our Year 3 and 4.
- Also found in these studies was that though some feedback devices may seem desirable (e.g. immediate feedback) as they increase short term performance, it does not lead to long-term learning. It details why immediate feedback would not be effecting. They argue:
- No feedback allows students to focus on the task and not their self-identity e.g. worry that they get something wrong and then stop working.
- Reduces the ‘illusion of competency’. E.g. I am getting all of these right so I must be really good at it so I don’t have to try very hard anymore.
- No-feedback can be more motivating for students who have just received targeted instruction.
- A recurring theme throughout the literature seems to suggest that there can be no ‘one size fits all’ approach to feedback that will result in all learners benefitting. Rather, it would be better to introduce a ‘feedback toolkit’ which teachers can choose and select from using their autonomy and professionalism.
What Does This Look Like in the Classroom – Feedback and assessment
This books brings together experts in various fields related to education that answer questions that the authors pose. In this chapter, the experts are Daisy Christodoulou and Dylan Wiliam. Highlights of this chapter include:
- You need to give students a completable task to take the feedback on board.
- Feedback should be more work for the recipient than the donor (see appendix for strategies on how to do this).
- Dylan Wiliam proposes ‘four quarter marking’ 25% of work in marked in detail, 25% of work is skimmed marked, 25% of work is self-assessed (with the teacher monitoring for quality and 25% is peer assessed. He argues it would more beneficial for student outcomes for teachers to spend less time marking and more time planning appropriate tasks – approximately double the amount of time should be spent planning tasks when compared to marking.
- Best person to mark a test is the person who did the test.
- Marking and feedback are not the same thing.
- Don’t give feedback to students unless you make the time the next time they are in the lesson to respond to that feedback.
- If students don’t have a desire to improve, feedback is unwarranted. Further suggests that classroom culture and pupil/teacher relationship is important.
Examples of good practice externally:
- Class teachers, while not expected through top-down management, were encouraged to keep a running record of the feedback that was gathered when reading students work. Proformas were offered (found in the appendix) to help teachers consider their feedback for a follow up ‘feedback’ session, normally the first 10 minutes of the following lesson. The feedback was shared with the whole class during the follow up session and helped form the type of ‘editing challenges’ that the students would use.
- Follow up ‘feedback’ sessions in some schools related to inferences from teacher collecting and reading work. Crucially, the feedback sessions featured short teacher input sessions with ‘editing challenges’ (found in the appendix) designed to ensure students were thinking about their error and how to correct it before then being asked to look back over their work to spot the error that they had just been working on. Crucially, students were only tasked to improve few error in depth, rather than focusing on all areas. This was selected through one of the following means, with it being up to the professionalism of the teacher to decide: The most frequent error within a piece of work; the most frequent error of the class; a recently taught SPaG skill that had not been mastered. The reason for this was because the focus of the feedback was to ‘change the student, not the work’ (Dylan Wiliam). Feedback should be implemented to ensure that the common errors are not repeated in the future, not to improve the work of the past. Those who did not poses the errors were given an editing challenge.
- All work was acknowledged either verbally or through ‘tick and flick’. This was done in the lesson with the teacher noting down misconceptions as they went. The last 10 minutes of the lesson was used to address these misconceptions as a whole class. This introduced a delayed feedback effect but by marking an answer incorrectly and provide no explanation allows he child to rethink their strategy making learning more meaningful.
- Students who still had misconceptions were part of ‘same day keep up’. Here, assembly was timetabled after maths and always taken by a member of SLT so class teachers could continue to work with students for an additional 20 minutes. This was reasoned that because of the hierarchical nature of mathematics, if a child did not understand the step before, then they would be far less likely to understand the following step. Multiple choice diagnostic questions were asked at the end of the lesson as an ‘exit ticket’. Each answer was carefully designed so the teachers can see what misconceptions a student had – making the same day follow up session more effective as the teacher knew the misconceptions that the students had.
- Understand that the purpose of feedback is to not improve the work but to improving the pupil. Feedback should be more work for the pupil than the teacher. It is what pupils do with the feedback which will result in greater learning, not just the act of feeding back itself.
- Careless errors (errors made but students know the content) should be addressed immediately but not corrected by the teacher e.g. 4 of these questions are incorrect. Find the ones that are wrong and correct them. A marking code could be introduced e.g. Sp3 could mean that there are three spelling mistakes on this line/paragraph etc or this could be given verbally.
- Teachers should not focus too much on one group of students but should be consistently rotating around all groups of students to check for careless errors and misunderstandings.
- Teachers should be mindful if feedback on the task or reteaching is required and be flexible to the needs of the students. E.g. when monitoring, they may notice different students lack the knowledge to complete the task so they bring them to the carpet to reteach content. Ideally, students who need this additional teaching time would be picked up before the activity begins through quality first teaching.
- When monitoring students during independent practice and when reading work after school, when necessary, teachers should complete a whole-class feedback form (see appendix) in order to use part of the following lesson to give feedback. This should follow the example from the ‘examples of external practice’.
- Expectation that all work is acknowledged through a combination of ‘tick and flick’ or verbal feedback. This should be left up to teacher discretion to find the balance.
- There should be no expectation for teachers to give a summative judgement (Working Towards, Working At etc) and a formative comment as the research shows that comments are not effective if given with a grade. All formative assessment should have taken place prior to the piece of work where a summative judgement will be given.
- When tests, quizzes or assessments are able to be self-marked these should be done this way and where possible introduce a delay between taking the item and marking the item. E.g. test is taken in the morning but not marked until the afternoon/following day.
- Consider getting pupils to rank their confidence in an answer being correct, using a simple 1-5 scale, in order to take into account of the hyper-correction effect. This approach will probably be more effective in KS2 than KS1 as they would be more likely to correctly pitch their confidence level.
- Leaders and teachers to understand that in some circumstances no feedback is more beneficial for learners with high prior-attainment of a unit/topic. Therefore, feedback for some students may not be necessary. The burden of proof that a student has high prior-attainment should fall onto the teacher to prevent this being used as excuse to not provide feedback in any circumstances
- Further research into ways to create classrooms with climates that foster peer and self-assessment and allow for learning from mistakes. E.g. Teachers to have answers to maths questions available to students so that after performing a set amount of questions, students can self-check their answers and make their own correction before a teacher sees the work
- A ‘Feedback Model’ based on the one from Hattie and Timperley should be developed, specifically within the context of the 3 questions that effective feedback has to answer as set out by Hattie and Timperley: Where am I going? How am I going? Where next? And the four different types of feedback: Feedback about task or product (FT); feedback aimed at the process used to create/complete a piece of work (FP); feedback about self-processing and self-regulation to motivate and engage with a task further (FR) and feedback on personal sense of self (FS).
- A ‘Feedback Toolkit’ should be developed by and shared with staff based on the model above which includes examples of classroom usage, phrases that meet the different feedback descriptors etc.
- Adopt the mantra ‘mark less pieces of work, but mark better’.
- Look to see if ‘same day keep up’ is something that could be developed within schools
Whole-class feedback forms from Stanley Road Primary School
How to make feedback more work for the recipient and not the donor. From Tom Sherrington
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