Guiding students to reflect on their progress and needs for practical work.
Giving learners the opportunity to be able to reflect on their progress and their needs can be an immensely powerful tool in learning. Providing the learner with a sense of autonomy over their work helps them to be empowered to make further improvements in their work without waiting for intervention from the teacher. Imagine the feeling that power must be like for a young person. To be able to evaluate your progress, to analyse it and identify what needs improving AND have the power to then implement that improvement without having to seek approval or help from the teacher.
But the handing over of this power must be done in a careful and controlled way. Doing so requires a sound understanding of one’s own abilities and an understanding of when something just is not right. Most students will think that the work they have produced is either the best or their best. It is a strange mind twister to think that ‘you don’t know what you don’t know, so how are you supposed to know what you need to know to make your work better?’
So, we need to find ways of helping students work through this mental block. Strategies to help them move from being reliant on the teacher for improvement to being autonomous and able to identify their own progress and needs.
Stage 1 | Modelling good feedback
The first stage of helping learners to become autonomous is to model good feedback yourself. Feedback needs to be a fine balance of being kind, specific and helpful.
Any feedback given must be kind. It must not become a personal matter. The purpose of the feedback must be at the heart of the exercise, which is to make the performance better.
The feedback also needs to be specific. Use key terminology appropriately and make sure that the learners understand the definitions of that key terminology. It also cannot be qualitative. Instead, focus on the fact that we trying to communicate to the audience. Are what the learners doing the effective in doing that? So be specific in that in answering that question.
Finally, the feedback needs to be helpful. They need to be able to act upon it in their performance. Give specific examples of how to improve and model your feedback.
Encourage other learners to follow these principles when giving feedback. It takes time to build up these skills. But worth it as feedback will have far greater quality and depth to it than a simple What Went Well and an Even Better If statement.
Stage 2 | Developing feedback skills in students
At the beginning it can be exceedingly difficult for learners to understand how to give this kind of through, balanced, and helpful constructive feedback. It is important that they understand that role is not to trip each other up or call the other out of doing something wrong. But instead to act as a guide or a critical friend. Doing so takes time and practice through peer assessment.
Word Bank Peer Assessment for practical work
Word Bank Peer Assessment is one of the most useful ways of helping learners give specific feedback. An activity like this can be as complicated as you want to make it. But at its simplest it is a list of words that you want your learners to use when giving their feedback. The reason why this is so useful when peer assessing practical work is that it purposefully gives the learners both an area of focus and the language with which to describe it with. It is important that you and they have that shared language and terminology to describe and analyse the performance with.
Shared clarity on what is good practical work
It is important that when you and the learners assess practical work you have a shared understanding of what is good. But first, we need to understand what good is. Good group and individual performance are tied to what is trying to be achieved in the performance. By tying the concept of ‘good’ to that of what is being communicated, we can then start to achieve feedback like “the tone of your voice just didn’t express how angry your character is about the situation”. So, clarifying the intentions of the performance to the audience before it is performed it will give the audience the context to be able to not only make the audience specific, but it will make it targeted and helpful.
Common Mistakes Marking for written work
Before setting the written task, spend some time talking through both the requirements of the written work and any common errors that the learners can foresee taking place. Write a numbered list of both the requirements and the common errors in a place where you can refer to it again later.
Once the learners have written their answers peer assess them using the numbered list. As students read their peers work, they can indicate which of the list has been included, which have not, what common mistakes they have made and which they have avoided.
Step Three: Autonomous Learners
These maybe three good ways of helping students improve their peer assessment but they are also helping learners to understand the value and importance of good, robust and sound feedback. In the classroom there are always three sources of formative assessment: teacher assessment, peer assessment and self-assessment. It is incredibly important that self-assessment is not just as strong as teacher assessment, but in many respects, students can become the drivers of their own improvement and development.
So, as you model strong feedback yourself and structure robust peer assessment to take place encourage your learners to take the next step and become autonomous in their work.
- Encourage students to write their own list of requirements and common errors to refer to as they write their work.
- Encourage students to constantly refer back to knowledge organisers during practical work to help them focus on specific aspects of their performance.
- Encourage them to evaluate their use of knowledge against their intentions for their character/performance.
Acting upon feedback
Regardless of its source (teacher, peer or self) feedback is useless unless it is acted upon. The purpose of the feedback is for the learner to improve their understanding of both their learning and how they need to express that learning. Sometimes this can take no time at all and sometimes it can take an entire lesson. Yet it is the most important part of this process.
Take some time to reflect on these questions:
- Are you in the habit of giving time to your class to act on feedback?
- Do you give peer and self-assessment the recognition it deserves as a method of feedback?
- How do the learners know when they have implemented their feedback into their practical work?
- How do you know when the learners have made progress as a result of their feedback?
- Do you need to make a record of this feedback? If so, how?