Masters Research Feeds into Feedback Changes at Cedars

Our TLCs have kicked off this year trialling a new approach to formative assessment designed to provide impactful, timely and manageable feedback in writing. The system has been designed on the back of a masters research project by Jenny O’Sullivan (Y6 class teacher – see here) and underpinned by the evidence of best practice from the Education Endowment Foundation, Dylan Wiliam, Barak Rosenshine, Daisy Christodoulou, Clare Sealy and other up-to-date research on feedback. 

The key principles behind it are as follows:

  • The sole focus of feedback should be developmental ie to further children’s learning
  • Evidence of feedback is incidental to the process; we do not provide additional evidence for external verification
  • Written comments should only be used where they are accessible to students according to age and ability
  • Feedback delivered closest to the point of action is most effective, and as such feedback delivered in lessons is more effective than comments provided at a later date
  • Feedback is provided both to teachers and pupils as part of assessment processes in the classroom, and takes many forms other than written comments
  • Feedback is a part of the school’s wider assessment processes which aim to provide an appropriate level of challenge to pupils in lessons, allowing them to make good progress
  • All pupils’ work should be reviewed by teachers at the earliest appropriate opportunity so that it might impact on future learning. When work is reviewed, it should be acknowledged in books.

Here’s what it looks like in practice…

The new approach to marking & feedback feedforward: writing

In a nutshell

The teacher scans the work in pupils’ books, groups the books depending on content/misconceptions, makes notes on what has often been misunderstood, and runs through the common misconceptions with the whole class the next day. Pupils have time to look over their own work and correct their mistakes.

In more detail

  1. During the lesson the teacher works with a focus group. If appropriate, the teacher scaffolds and models. They may show an example of a piece of good work completed by a pupil in the focus group (this is not anonymised, and the teacher will aim to use each child’s work at least once).
  2. After a lesson, the teacher looks through the class’s work and notes down any common mistakes or misunderstandings on a feedforward proforma. This proforma will inform the planning of the next session through discussions within the year group. 
  1. During DIRT (Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time) the following morning, children are directed by the morning board to address issues identified on feedforward proforma.
  1. The class then works on editing or redrafting their work. This involves changing the content, and thinking about the effect on the reader and how to move their work to the next level. The teacher focuses on a target group.
  2. At the start of the next lesson (informed and planned from feedforward), the teacher shares the good aspects of the work to the whole class – for example, descriptive language or perfect punctuation and highlights misconceptions and errors from previous lesson. If appropriate the teacher may model correcting mistakes and uplevel a piece of anonymised work.
  3. The teacher then delivers the next step in teaching sequence.

As part of this approach, children are encouraged and expected to have more ownership over the process of improving their work. To support this, Peer Assessment and Self-Assessment (with teachers monitoring quality) play an integral part in the ‘balanced diet’ of feedforward and assessment.

Feedforward forms are stored in a class folder and are used to monitor impact through triangulation during book trawls, the coaching cycle and the wider assessment of writing.

The approach can be described as ‘strategic minimal marking’. The teacher starts with the assumption that no pupil actually needs much help to edit their work, aside from the scaffolding and modelling they’ve already done in the lesson, and does as little as they need to help them edit. It works on the basis that the whole process should be developmental (to ‘feedforward’) and ensure the pupil knows what to do next time.

Pupils who need more help on something get a prompt on the DIRT slide the following morning so the pupil knows what to focus on. This work may be completed with teacher support (where necessary), through peer coaching or independently, depending on the given task. Teachers may also use feedback symbols (see above) where a pupil’s work displays a common issue.

If they need even more help, the teacher writes the prompt as above but highlights a specific section to help the pupil find the error.

Pointing out individual errors is a last resort and is only done when a pupil is really struggling.

Verdict: supports mastery in writing

This process takes more in-class time than the previous system of written marking. A whole lesson may be spent reflecting on a previous lesson’s work if it was a longer piece of writing. It also allows for clarification of misconceptions during the lesson due to the reflection on a child’s work in the lesson. This should then ensure that children are having opportunities to correct misunderstandings ‘in real time’ as well as the next morning. 

Consequently, the school runs fewer literacy units than it used to, but this is in line with the school’s ‘mastery’ approach: focusing on deeper content knowledge rather than more content coverage. 

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