Feedback to the learner, feedback to you
Teachers love marking. In fact the UK curriculum seems to have always revolved around preparing
students for endless exams that are marked and spit out a summary grade. Many have argued
that our students are the most examined in the western world.
It’s not really much fun is it- and maybe it’s not healthy either.
A consequence of this obsession with exam prep is, yes you’ve guessed it-
endless exam practice in lessons! To do well in tests, many believe, you teach
to the test and pile on one practice exam after another.
Hattie (2009) reports that students taking at least one test during a 15 week term scored about
half a standard deviation higher than students taking no tests. Testing as part of the classroom
teaching and learning process is important, but, “...repeated testing...is only effective if there is
feedback from the tests to teachers such as they modify their instruction to attend to the
strengths and gaps in student performance.”
Hattie reports a number of effect sizes from different studies. Of particular note was the effect
size of d=0.61 reported for tests provided with feedback to learners. This compared to an effect
size of d=0.30 for tests without feedback to learners.
The value of feedback
Feedback is a major element in achievement. It is near the top of ranks of effect sizes, and Hattie
(2009) assigns it an effect size of d=0.73. Petty (2009) awards it an effect size of d=0.81 but I
cannot locate the source of that claim.
On the What is Learning? page of the website I summarised the idea that learning is more than
facts- it is developing personal constructs that link facts into complex models of understanding.
Feedback provides guidance to learners on how complete and how correct their personal
Feedback on a task or piece of work provides three key pieces of information to a learner, the first
of which is linked to the goals of a task:
What have I got to do?
What does the assessment indicate I know?
What does the assessment suggest I need to focus on in order to improve my
Hattie (2009) quotes Sadler (1989), “it is the closing of the gap between where the student is and
where they are aiming for that leads to the power of feedback”.
I always give feedback...
Feedback occurs on various time-scales- e.g. throughout lessons or as a response to a key
assessment. It also varies in form, detail and in utility.
Hattie (2009) guides us towards David Carless’s (2006) paper on differing perceptions in the
feedback process- it’s well worth a read.
Carless’s work is revealing:
The success criteria describing the goals of the task were frequently difficult to
Around 70% of teachers stated that they gave detailed feedback often or always. Only 45%
of students agreed:
Use the word pedagogy in conversation?
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So... examine the evidence
So... adopt evidence-based methods
So... enhance learning