What is Feedback all about?
Feedback can be one of the most valuable tools throughout education. That is, if it is done properly! As wonderful as it is to be given a good grade for a piece of work; without feedback pointing to what exactly you did well, the grade has no impact on your future work. On the other hand, if you had issues while carrying out a task; appropriate feedback can help you to realise your mistakes and build on your weaknesses so that you are more likely to succeed next time.
While mulling this over in my head, I watched this TED talk about feedback for teachers. Its focus is on America but has key messages which are international:
The key points that I took from this video are:
- No-one can become truly skilled at their role without feedback from others
- the best performing countries have formal feedback systems
- successful systems involve younger teachers getting a chance to watch master teachers at work
- Self evaluation is also a useful form of feedback, as seen in the demonstration of a teacher recording herself in classroom and using it to reflect
The idea of some teachers receiving one word feedback (“Satisfactory”) ties in with my earlier thoughts about a grade being meaningless without explanation. In order for us as teachers to develop and improve, we need to be: encouraged, through identification of our strengths and appreciation of our efforts and also challenged, through suggestions of improvements or introduction to new ways of approaching a problem.
I have been involved in giving and receiving feedback in the past, particularly through my job as Deputy Manager in a nursery. I took part in peer observations, which, unfortunately in my experience, did not work very well. This was because staff were unwilling to be objective and constructively critical about their friends and therefore rarely suggested any areas for improvement, making the observations a pointless exercise. Apart from observations, I also held numerous appraisals and reviews where I was responsible for giving feedback about a member of staff’s work. I often adopted the ‘praise sandwich’ technique where I began with encouragement and identification of the individual’s strengths, then discussed some areas for development and how we could work together to support this. Finally, I finished with more praise and encouragement. I found this to be a reasonably successful technique as staff appeared to leave the meetings feeling positive and motivated.
What does feedback look like within the classroom?
Feedback is not only essential for us as adults, but also for children throughout their learning in schools. Children can be given feedback from their teachers, their parents, and from other pupils and peers. HERE is a lovely post about different forms of peer assessment within the primary classroom. I will be interested to see different approaches and methods in action when I go out onto placement and am excited to use some of these within my own teaching.
One feedback system that I have seen in action is “2 stars and a Wish” where students are told 2 things that are good about a piece of work and one area for development. This system was briefly discussed at one of my inputs and I must admit that I am slightly torn about it. Whereas I appreciate that feedback is vital for pupils, and I like the fact that the 2 stars mean that there is more positive than negative comments; I still feel that teachers need to be very careful. Should there always be areas to improve? is it enough to recognise the accomplishment of one of the previous improvements? I think that the teacher must be very aware of the individual pupil’s personality and needs, as it could result in a child feeling that they are never good enough and potentially giving up.
How do I feel about giving and receiving feedback?
Following an input about peer reviews and feedback, we were asked to comment on our fellow students’ eportfolio posts, ensuring to give constructive praise and criticism which was directly linked with the success criteria. I found giving feedback to be quite challenging. I am very aware that in writing, a comment that was intended to be helpful can come across as critical and so I was careful in my phrasing.
I have not yet received any feedback from other students for this task, however I have had comments from others on some of my earlier posts. I am always excited to see comments as it makes me feel that someone has made a connection with me and my topic. They can also help me to improve the content of my posts in future, for example one comment (from Derek on ‘School Uniforms’) noted that I could include sources for additional reading. I had not thought to do this before but now I try to include links where possible so that any readers can find the information and make up their own mind about issues.
I understand that feedback will be a huge part of my journey to becoming a teacher, and it is a skill which I must continue to work on. In the past I have been guilty of taking criticism slightly personally and having an emotional response. This is not helpful and could actually have a detrimental impact on my personal and professional development. Completing this exercise has helped me to recognise this potential barrier and I hope that gaining this awareness will help me in the future.