Feedback – I give it but they ignore it!
Feedback – I give it but they ignore it! by Louise Taylor
Ever had that feeling that you spend hours providing feedback but that your pupils are not responding to it as you’d like? Have you ever thoroughly analysed the process around the feedback? What about the timing? The wording? The means? Below I propose a few ideas (based on a great deal of research into feedback and feedback literacy) which may help you rethink your own feedback processes.
– without going into too much detail, it’s important that your students actually understand the discourse you are using. What words do you use in your feedback? If you say “think about paragraph structure” – do your students know what you mean? If you say “incorrect use of tense” – do they understand the word “tense”? Make sure, in advance, that your students know the terminology you will use and, in case of doubt, provide short clear examples.
– do you provide squiggles under incorrect words? Do you give hints? Think about how much information you provide: too much will seem nit-picky, but not enough seems like they’ve made the effort to produce work and you’ve not made the effort to review it. Provide your students with some clear tips as to how to improve their work.
– once you have created a safe environment in your class, think about implementing peer feedback. As long as the criteria are clear, the students are very capable of providing each other with feedback. This means much more feedback is possible than one teacher can provide in a short space of time.
– make sure you let your pupils know what criteria you use when marking their work or providing them with feedback. Many schools now use rubrics. Why not discuss these with your pupils and ask them to provide you with feedback – sometimes their comments make a lot of sense and they will better understand the rubric if it is in “their language”. Another thing to think of with rubrics is the way in which we read them: in Europe we read from left to right. Many pupils do this with rubrics, so they stop reading at the “sufficient” column. How about reversing your rubrics and having the “excellent” on the left and “not yet” on the right? Psychologically, many pupils will read the first column as being the main aim for this assignment and will, therefore, aim for “excellence”!
– do you provide feedback on some work they have submitted “for a grade”? The next time they submit work may be weeks away, by which time they may have forgotten the feedback they just received. Much better is to be more cyclical about things, so make sure they submit work for formative feedback which they are more likely to process (in order to eventually receive a higher grade / better comments). Get them to resubmit twice, even. Then at the end, you provide them with some feed up. Even better – when they next submit work, ask them to record at the top of the work what the main feedback (feed up) was from the last bit of work so that you can see if they’ve processed it this time. This requires them to keep a journal or at least keep track of the main feedback.
– is your feedback always written? Why not try recording it next time? You can use a multitude of online screen sharing programs to make an audio recording as you go through their written or even oral work. Research has shown that pupils tend to revisit this type of feedback more often as they hear the intonation and often find this feedback more personal.
- Exemplars – many pupils prefer to work from examples. Each year ask your class if you can keep (an anonymised copy of) their work to show to the next class. Your current class can then analyse the work they have received, together with your grading criteria and determine what feedback they would give. This often helps pupils to get a better grasp of what is expected of them and to understand the criteria for submission of oral or written work. This then also helps them better understand the feedback they receive.
If you’d like any more information on feedback processes, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We have a mountain of literature on it we can share with you, together with our own personal experiences of feedback.