Anna Szpakowska teaches at Passmores Academy in Harlow. She is currently rethinking how Passmores uses feedback to develop students wider skills and qualities. WE asked her to share her experience with us, and what she has learned so far. You can read more on Anna’s blog (her feedback blog is here).
About three years ago, after an assistant head observed one of my lessons and picked up on my use of feedback, I was given the responsibility of overseeing how we use feedback at Passmores Academy. As a result of this, we have overhauled our marking policy and re-made it as a feedback policy. I have also been lucky enough to oversee and work with several practitioners across the curriculum who are now driving forward the use of feedback strategies in their respective subject areas.
When I first began teaching, marking was just something you knew you had to do, and it was one of those jobs that took ages. But it didn’t seem to go anywhere or do anything. The impact on pupil progress was zero because the students weren’t made to engage with anything you’d written. However, over the last three years, we, at Passmores, have moved to a culture where feedback (in a variety of forms) is used to engage pupils and empower them to take control of their learning and to move it forward.
This, of course, hasn’t happened in a vacuum; this is part of a wider movement in educational research which has found that feedback strategies – when implemented carefully – can have an enormous impact on pupil progress. Research conducted by the Education Endowment Foundation has found that feedback is one of the most potent tools at a teacher’s disposal, adding 8 months of learning for students. And, feedback is not only a powerful force to make a student better in your subject. It makes them a better learner: they develop resilience, independence and communication skills too.
This year, after I attended the Whole Education WE Lab Classrooms launch, I decided to trial and use a variety of peer assessment strategies in my own practice. By committing myself to doing this I’ve made improvements to my teaching that have encouraged young people to become independent and self-sufficient in their learning.
Secondly, this project will mean I can hold myself accountable. As Dylan William points out, we need to “embrace the idea of continuous improvement” or we face the complacency that sets in after we’ve been teaching for several years.
Lastly, as a result of my own experimentation, I have generated a staff guide for using peer assessment strategies. This has been launched with ten members of staff who have volunteered to take part in this project. They are from a variety of curriculum areas including history, PE and computer science. It has been enormously important to me to work with colleagues from across the school and not just my subject area (English). After all, we want our young people to see that they have transferable skills that they can use across the curriculum. By working with colleagues from other subjects, not only do we ensure consistency for students, we also model for our young people that teachers from different subjects can collaborate towards a learning goal.
This working party will collaborate and support one another in the implementation of peer assessment strategies. We have agreed to use peer-to-peer observations as an opportunity to provide feedback to one another. We will meet after the Easter holidays and again at the end of the year to share best practice and to review the year.
I’m genuinely excited to see how we can develop a range of new teaching strategies but I’m also excited to see the young people embracing the opportunity to take charge of their own learning.
Anna’s recommended reading on feedback:
+ Embedded Formative Assessment (2018) by Dylan William
+ Making Good Progress (2017) by Daisy Christodolou
+ Visible Learning: Feedback (2018) by John Hattie and Shirley Clarke
+ Provide clear, student-friendly success criteria.
+ Provide model answers that enable students to see what the learning should ‘look like’.
+ Persevere and experiment with strategies – students can only learn if they get to practice.
+ Encourage students to adopt a growth mind-set.
+ Live model peer assessment if students are struggling to grasp it.