Despite the time it can sometimes take, I’ve always enjoyed the process of marking pupils’ work. I enjoy seeing what the pupils have written then giving feedback before going through the work in class. Inevitably some pupils will have pushed themselves, others will have gone through the motions with the rest doing just about enough. Re-writes are rare but they happen.
For many parents during the online learning of the summer term, they will have had to provide feedback to their own children on the work set by teachers. Most, I’m sure, will have given positive feedback. More of a challenge I suspect will have been giving ‘constructive criticism’.
Feedback takes many forms – verbal, written, graded, peer feedback and so on – with each piece of work requiring a slightly different approach. In history, for example, if it is a test on dates it will be a straight-forward mark out of 10; if it is an essay, it will be graded according to the success criteria provided beforehand; if there is a piece of work on analysing sources, it will likely be a different mark per question. Each subject will have their own feedback criteria. Like most things in teaching, there isn’t a one size fits all approach.
During the summer term’s online learning, we found some of the children responded well to the instant feedback provided over a Teams lesson either verbally or even visually with a thumbs up. It gave immediate affirmation to the pupil they valued and enjoyed. Wider research showed that during the lockdown period some of the quieter more introverted pupils thrived in the online learning environment because they felt less pressure than they felt in the normal physical classroom environment. I thought this was quite telling; it can be easy as a teacher to consistently ask the same pupils who put their hand back failing therefore to engage those who prefer, and not always by choice, to keep a lower profile.
Like adults, children respond to praise and positive feedback; we all like to be told we are doing well. I’d also argue that after teaching for over twenty five years in a variety of schools, I’ve found children also respond very well to less positive feedback as long as it is delivered empathetically and with sound reasoning. Children need to know how they can improve and they do not mind being told; this is the whole purpose after all of giving feedback. I think too they appreciate the fact that you have taken the time to mark their work, to add your comments and have a conversation with them about what they have done well and what they need to work on. Being honest, and sometimes that may require a difficult conversation with a pupil, is by far the best policy. Children are, as they have shown over the past few months, remarkably resilient and accepting; they can take it!
Someone once told me, remember to make sure your feedback is kind, helpful and specific. Pretty sound advice which I have always tried to stick to.
— Written by Mr Robin Gainher, Headmaster —