ERW research projects
In 2017 ERW set-up a research project in partnership with colleagues from UWTSD Yr Athrofa and three schools. Each of the schools prioritised different aspects of their practice related to effective feedback to pupils alongside reducing teacher workload. The schools involved were Ysgol Bae Baglan (Neath, Port Talbot), Morriston Comprehensive School (Swansea) and Cwmrhydyceirw Primary School (Swansea).
In each of the schools the research indicates that the most effective feedback is that which is given immediately, and which makes ‘invisible’ processes visible whilst also recognising the need for teachers to demonstrate effective marking of work.
In Cwmrhydyceirw Primary school, reducing detailed written comments in favour of verbal feedback and focused techniques decreased teacher workload and helped pupils gain in confidence about their learning. Pupils see simple written comments as helpful, but when the feedback needs to be detailed or more complicated they prefer opportunity to talk it through with the teacher. Recommendations from the work included the importance of ensuring that any written comments are pertinent, and as immediate as possible and that teachers have the confidence to give meaningful verbal feedback when possible. The work at Cwmrhydyceirw was recognised in the recent ESTYN inspection as having a positive impact on pupil learning.
At Morriston, the importance of demonstrating to pupils how they can improve their work as an important part of effective feedback was the focus of their work. Moving from detailed written comments in favour of shared, modelled feedback using attainment ladders to inform the development focus has the potential to decrease teacher workload and help children feel that they better understood how to improve their work. The increased familiarity with the assessment systems in place in the school has seen pupils and teachers alike report a more common, shared understanding of how to improve work. Recommendations from the work included the importance of whole class modelling in providing valuable guidance to pupils about how to improve their work and the use of an agreed, shared assessment policy and set of practices that can make pupils feel more included in the assessment process.
In Ysgol Bae Baglan, moving from detailed written comments to verbal feedback using technology decreased teacher workload and helped pupils feel that feedback was personal to their individual needs. The work involved pupils from Year 5 to 10 uploading their work to ‘OneNote’, with teachers responding online with personalised feedback using a program called ‘Office Mix’. A strength of the approach was the flexibility it brought for teachers and pupils alike. Recommendations from this work highlight the importance of providing teachers and pupils with opportunities to explore the possibilities that technology can provide with regard to verbal feedback and when it can be best used.