Feedback Reminders

Here are some useful reminders about feedback.  Click on the image to enlarge it:

feedback wisdom

This great “feedback flowchart” was created by David Didau (@LearningSpy).  Click on the image to enlarge it:


More thoughts on feedback and DIRT can be found in this previous post.

A useful resource for helping pupils to reflect on their performance in a test can be found here.


If you like the idea of creating professional looking displays and worksheets, then you might want to take a look at Piktochart.  This is another of those online packages which is free to use at a basic level, with an option to go “pro” for a fee.  You will soon get the hang of the interface and will almost certainly be impressed with the quality of the images you can create after just a little exploring.

Here’s an example of a graphic I created within an hour of first looking at the package [click on image to enlarge]:


If you fancy having a go at using this yourself, then click here. If you need a few pointers to help you make the most of the Piktochart, then click here to watch a short video from the designers.

On The Level # 5 – Focus on Feedback

“Level 5. You’ve made some appropriate suggestions here. In future you need to explain how the evidence supports your opinions.”

Is the above comment an example of good feedback or bad feedback? This article in the Guardian sheds some interesting light on this issue. It summarises ideas presented in “Thanks for the Feedback”, a book written by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen. These are not teachers, but Harvard Law professors, and their aim is not to help people give feedback, but rather to help them receive it. How often, I wonder, do we teachers stop to really consider our feedback from the recipient’s point of view?

Stone and Heen suggest that people usually respond badly to feedback because they receive it in a state of tension: they want praise for the improvements they have made, but they don’t appreciate reminders that they still need to keep improving and are therefore not good enough. To make matters worse, many managers muddle three types of feedback:

• appreciation (praise for accomplishments)
• coaching (tips for improvement)
• evaluation (rating someone’s performance, often in comparison to others)

By muddling these different types of feedback, the manager apparently renders each aspect far less meaningful and effective than it should be. The comment with which I opened this section is pretty much a perfect example of this type of mixed feedback. So, even though that is just the sort of comment we teachers would usually expect to make, it would seem that, according to Stone and Heen at least, it is actually bad feedback: we should try to keep these different types of feedback more distinct from one another.


Recently I met with teachers from four local schools to pool our thinking on life after levels. Amongst other things, we took a look at some ideas put forward by Michael Fordham in this blog. Michael, a Senior Teaching Associate at the Cambridge University Faculty of Education, is coming from a very similar direction to our two Harvard professors. He points out that we provide mixed feedback because we are juggling too many different requirements:

We want, as teachers, to give helpful feedback to pupils that allows them to get better at the thing we are teaching them. We want, as parents, to know how well our children are getting on (particularly in comparison to other children!). We want, as schools, to identify pupils who are falling behind so that some kind of intervention can be made. We want, as senior managers, to use data to make judgements about teacher competence. We want, as inspectors or the government, to hold schools to account. We want, as a society, to be able to make decisions (Should I employ this person? Should I let them in to university?) based on prior assessments. I simplify on all these fronts, but it is well recognised that assessment gets dragged in multiple directions and this demands modes of assessment that are not always compatible with one another.

In light of all this, Michael suggests that people simply adopt a layered assessment regime in which we use different types of assessment to generate different types of feedback.  All the teachers I discussed this with certainly seemed to like his thinking.

At the end of our session together, each of the schools involved made a commitment to come up with a suggested approach to future assessment, quite possibly based on the thinking outlined above. In May we will meet again to compare notes, and hopefully establish a workable solution to life after levels. What will Loreto’s contribution to this process be? Another post will follow shortly.  In the meantime, if you have any bright ideas, do let me know!

ON THE LEVEL # 3 – Those who cannot assess, cannot teach!

When the government announced that that National Curriculum levels would cease to be used in school assessments, the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) set up a commission to establish some new national principles for assessment.  It has just published its conclusions, opening with the remark in the title of this post!


The full report can be found here.  It offers a reminder that assessment is constantly used by every good teacher to evaluate the progress of pupils, and that the feedback from these assessments enables not only teachers but also pupils, parents and school leaders to plan future learning.  The report also points out that in modern education, assessment is inextricably linked with accountability: feedback from assessments should enable parents, governors, local authorities and government to check that schools are delivering a high standard of education.

In this and the following ON THE LEVEL articles, we will provide some simple summaries of the report.  We start with its main recommendations …

Schools cannot simply carry on using the old National Curriculum levels for assessment purposes, because the new National Curriculum is not in alignment with them.  Instead they must develop, implement and embed a robust new framework for assessment.   However, schools should be allowed to use suitably modified National Curriculum levels as an interim measure whilst this new framework is being developed.

Any new system of assessment should be based on a clear set of principles.  These principles should have been agreed upon by all staff no later than September 2014.  They should be supported by school governors, and should make sense to parents, other stakeholders and the wider school community.  A detailed assessment framework should be in place by 2016, and the timescale for developing this should be outlined in the school development plan.

It is essential that pupils are assessed against objective criteria rather than ranked against each other.  Therefore the NAHT should develop and promote a set of model assessment criteria based on the new National Curriculum.  This will also enable pupil progress to be communicated effectively in terms of descriptive profiles rather than being reduced to numerical summaries (although schools may wish to use numerical data for internal purposes).

Schools should work together to ensure a broadly consistent approach to assessment, and should be prepared to submit their assessments to external moderators with no vested interest in the outcome.  This will help to ensure objectivity and to deliver consistency across schools.  To support this, schools should identify and train a member of staff to lead on assessment and to work on moderation activities with other local schools and nationally accredited experts.

All those responsible for children’s learning should regularly undertake rigorous training in formative, diagnostic and summative assessment in order to reinforce their understanding of how assessment supports teaching and learning for all pupils, including those with special educational needs.

Ofsted should check that schools put into place rigorous assessment systems, and should examine how effectively schools are using pupil assessment information and data to improve learning.

In the next ON THE LEVEL article, we will look at the NAHT’s proposed principles for assessment.

Exit Tickets – a progress snapshot





“The single most powerful thing I’ve done all year, from lesson one, maintaining it consistently, and it’s impressed external observers and internal mentors alike.” says Kris Boulton. “The exit ticket provides a snapshot of whole class understanding for each and every lesson, in under two minutes. For effort to impact ratio, they’re a no brainer. I can’t even imagine planning the next lesson without them.”

exit ticket

Click here for a full explanation.

I’ve used this idea a few times with my GCSE classes, usually asking something along the lines of “what’s the most important point to take away from this lesson”, and it provides a really useful insight into the pupils’ thinking.  I often start the next lesson by offering the students three or four thought-provoking answers to consider, then asking them to pick the one they think is best, or rank them in some way.  The students always engage really well with this.  Any other suggestions for follow-up activities most welcome!