The power of feedback
March 17, 2023
I wonder what comes into your mind when you hear the word ‘feedback’? As a younger man, I suspect that my thoughts might have quickly turned to the wild, squealing guitar of Jimi Hendrix and his famed performance at Woodstock in the late Summer of 1969. But a couple of decades later, the notion of feedback resonates with me in an altogether different way!
“The key to learning is feedback. It is nearly impossible to learn anything without it” Stephen Levitt
As Levitt implies in his quote above, in education, receiving feedback is one of the most crucial factors in helping students to identify and overcome their barriers to learning. And giving feedback also provides learning benefits; peer feedback (in which one student provides structured and insightful feedback to another) has been shown to enhance the learning and understanding of both students involved in the process. For teachers, feedback from students can provide new and valuable insights into our practice and reveal new ways to understand the way in which our students like to learn.
During the Term I Professional Development Day, as part of our ongoing focus on Visible Learning practices, our Senior School teachers and leaders spent a day reflecting on and developing our shared understanding of the role of feedback, and the ways in which we might seek to improve and increase its presence in our classrooms. Several subject areas have chosen to focus on feedback during the terms ahead and will be exploring a range of ways to increase its presence in their planning and delivery of learning. But its not simply about providing ‘more’!
Many of us can recall a time in life where we have been offered feedback that was anything but relevant, constructive or clearly expressed. Not only can it be an unpleasant and demotivating experience, but in many cases, it can leave us less clear on the path ahead than before we took on board the new information. As a School, we are committed to not just providing more feedback, but more effective feedback that equips students with the information they need to move forward in their learning. Underpinning our approaches are three straightforward questions. I’ve included the questions below, and encourage you to try adopting these questions yourself when helping your son or daughter to reflect on their own learning:
- Where am I going? (what, specifically, am I trying to learn?)
- How am I going? (What progress have I made? And how do I know?)
- How can I improve, and where to next? (What is my next step to take my learning forward?)