The Power of Feedback

Some of you reading this may not be old enough to remember the video of Paul Black and Dylan William presenting their findings on the impact of targets versus grades on student achievement. It’s been two decades since I first saw it and yet it has left a lasting impression. 

My feedback and marking methods have evolved considerably since then but I never cease to be amazed by how much difference redirecting students’ attention away from the grades makes. Last year we launched #HighPerformanceLearning at Harrow Bangkok. With its focus on limitless potential and the importance of effort and grit, the feedback has become so much more powerful as the focus on improvement is being reinforced across the school in every subject.

Consider this starting point attempt at analysis from my Y7 student. I scaffolded their short analytical paragraph with the help of quotation explosion – a strategy “borrowed” from the wonderful Remi Adekunle when we worked together at HHS. The students used their strategy planning and linking skills to identify the point they were looking to make. Their analysis is rather basic and not specific enough despite the detailed notes on the scaffold. Still not a bad first ever attempt.

In order to move the student and their classmates on, I consistently did the following:

  • I modelled what a high quality paragraph looks like after every writing opportunity. Sometimes we wrote it together, sometimes they annotated a prewritten example and sometimes we improved one of the student pieces. Nothing revolutionary about this approach. 
  • I consistently used the same set of success criteria for writing as well as peer and self-assessment.
  • Students were asked to improve their paragraphs every time they were offered feedback, be it based on teacher, peer or self-assessment. 
  • They were also required to go back to their last improved analysis and read through the target set and the improvements made in response to the target before their next attempt. I wanted to ensure they had a clear understanding of what needed improvement previously to stop them from making the same mistakes.

Over the course of one term students had roughly four opportunities to practice their analytical writing using perseverance and risk taking skills with fantastic results. Have a look at this most recent paragraph written just last week in the image below. Please note the lovely additions the student made while writing as they checked their work against the success criteria. This is a piece of writing by an eleven year old. I couldn’t be more proud of the progress they have made

Here is another example of the same task from another student. To be fair, I could post pictures of all my students’ pieces as they have all made impressive progress as a result of this focused feedback approach.