If Venus de Milo did feedback – what reach she could have had

venus de milo

The Feedback policies that restrict a reach

And yet again I read of a ‘book-study’, ‘marking scrutiny’, ‘feedback assessment’ – call it what you will – that emphasises noting down whether the student has responded to feedback. Tie this in to ‘frequent’ marking and chances are you are restricting the nature of that feedback and – more importantly – of cultivating a genuine developmental relationship through marking with each of your students.

If you want evidence of students ‘responding to feedback’ in their books because you know your teaching (and hence, you) will be judged on it, the likelihood is that you will game some of the following:

  • Easy-to-change suggestions
  • Searching for errors, rather than looking for clarity and understanding
  • Asking for feedback responses that can be undertaken in the first 10 minutes of the next lesson
  • Summarising whole-class errors that the whole-class can respond to in the first 10 minutes
  • SPAG
  • Repeated instructions for the same remedy to repeated errors
  • Superficial error-correction rather than deep restructuring
  • Easy to articulate suggestions rather than harder-to-explain developments
  • Consciously omitting key advice – so there will be ‘errors’ to correct
  • Something more likely to be seen exactly the same in a neighbour’s book than unique to you
  • Coloured pens
  • Rote dialogue
  • Over the year, loss of a genuine scribed relationship in the eyes of the student
  • Makes you give a shrug (the ‘you’ applies to both of you)

 

What should it be?

  • Less frequent marking
  • Tough to implement suggestions
  • Searching for understanding, but finding ways to sustain and lift it to the next concept
  • Requiring feedback responses that will develop over months and terms
  • Big picture responses
  • Occasionally SPAG in a context of enhancing meaning and clarity
  • Responding to previous advice to see if recent responses have adapted to it
  • Deep restructuring
  • One-to-one conversations that enrich dialogue about the subject that will require further elucidation
  • Guiding in the hope there will be no errors – but anticipating that you have overlooked something
  • A personalised response that has noticed what you, a unique student, has said/done/written and makes you feel you are being personally guided
  • A pen. Or pencil.
  • A developing conversation over the year
  • Over the year, a genuine scribed and spoken relationship between teacher and taught that educates both.
  • Makes you want to reach higher (same)

I’ve seen it written, that if a student doesn’t respond to feedback, then you might as well have gone to the pub than spent the time on giving the feedback. Well – I think the attempt is heroic anyway, to try to improve someone else in out-of-hours time. But I’d like to reserve judgement on whether the student has responded until later in the year. Useless for accountability purposes. Unless the accountability is to the student – each one, individually, long-term, and deep. You cannot judge a sculpture on the basis of the first thousand chisel marks.

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