Slow feedback ©


Last night I tweeted about ‘slow feedback’ (I made up the name as I typed. I now claim it as mine ©) I thought I’d write a quick blog to explain what I meant and the rationale behind it.

Marking exams takes precious time

Our year 11s did some exams in the final days of year 10. There was no way I was going to mark them before the end of the academic year and to be honest I wasn’t going to spend my holiday doing it either.

The new specifications are huge. Ours has two separate papers. Each paper has 16 questions, ranging from multiple choice to extended writing. They take a long time to mark. I will be honest. I didn’t set full papers for them as I knew it would take a long time to mark. My class has 27 students in it. That would be 864 questions. However I wrote a paper that was a complete mix of content and covered each question type at least 4 times.

We need to consider if the time spent on marking work is outweighed by the benefit to the students? I don’t ‘fully’ mark their work. A few hints, question marks and a simple tick sheet.

No marks. No grades

I don’t give students marks or grades until the last moment I have to; usually their year 11 mock. There is no way I was going to spend hours and hours marking and then they just look at the marks/grade. Because that is what they’d do. They say they won’t, but they would. I know it.  I’ve blogged before on this. Giving feedback alongside a grade is essentially a waste of time. I just go for the feedback.

Whole class feedback

When there are 28 questions to feedback on there’s no way that one lesson will suffice. If you try to do this, students will be overloaded (cognitive load) with feedback. It will blur into one. Some people type up the feedback and give it to the students. I don’t. I type key points onto a Powerpoint as I am reading their work.

I have then spent some time each lesson for the past two weeks giving feedback. I show the exam question and ask them what we already know, point out common errors, in some cases show a model answer and then crucially students are given time to improve their own answer ( we call it ‘green pen’ work. The only reason it’s green is so that it stands out. Nothing else). If I’d fed back on several complex questions they wouldn’t be able to focus on specific improvements. They would be overwhelmed and wouldn’t know where to start. I divided the feedback into manageable chunks each lesson. The added benefit of this is that this is repeating the same skills over and over, not just in one lesson but over two weeks. It supports retrieval practice; revision.

The second benefit is I can stagger my marking. I didn’t give up my whole weekend to do it. I did some each day, in between feeding back.

Delayed feedback?

They sat the papers nearly 8 weeks ago. Aren’t I a bad teacher not giving it back earlier? Well, the first lesson was a test anyway to interrupt the forgetting curve (see here for my blog on why the holiday may not matter for this) and I’m not bothered by the gap. I’ve seen research supporting immediate feedback and delayed feedback. Probably not this gap but it was an exceptional circumstance that is unlikely to happen again. I can actually see a positive in it. Once I’d fed back, they had to reread their own answer to see if they’d make the errors I’d highlighted. In some ways they had to diagnose where they needed to add some of the content I’d recapped and improved their answers with it.

Feedback as revision

As all the questions were from their year 9 and year 10 content, everything was based on retrieval from up to 2 years ago. In my eyes this attempt to retrieve content is part of revision; firstly in the exam and then in the improvement lessons. Some people leave revision to the last few lessons or weeks of year 11. We were revising many topics over these lessons. As long as I include these in our starter quizzes for the next few lessons, they should retain the previously missing content.

There were some questions for which there were clear gaps in knowledge or understanding. This is where I retaught the gaps. They added to the notes they already have on the topic (easy when they work on paper in folders) or created a new page of notes to then file in the correct topic. It wasn’t separate from the original learning notes. This shows students that notes are part of the revision process of checking what you might have gaps of knowledge in.We had to retrieve what we already knew and then added to this. This is revision.

Next lesson they will complete a review of the feedback and reflect on what they’ve improved on in the past two weeks; content and exam question skills. They should have a better view of this from the repetitions over the lessons in two weeks, rather than all in one lesson. It’s slow feedback ©.

Whilst this was an exceptional gap, I can’t see that it would’ve been better if I’d have worked all evenings in the last week of term to give feedback. This process has acted as revision and in my opinion, it’s the best time for it, in lessons.

Last week I told my year 11 this week that I will not be running any after school or lunch revision for them. Feedback is revision. Today, as I repeated this, one student said ‘Miss you should write that on the walls’. I think I might.

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*In case you don’t realise, the © is a joke.No-one ‘owns’ any idea on social media…..


3 thoughts on “Slow feedback ©

  1. If only we all had the autonomy to make a professional judgement and decision regarding marking, feedback and after school revision sessions. Sadly, there are many schools who enforce it on their staff to run extra revision even if the teacher does not think it is needed.

  2. Loving this idea. I have also told mine that I won’t be running extra revision classes at which they were shocked. They seemed to think it was some sort of right. As I explained if I am starting revision earlier in the year there should be no need for classes later. Also, while they might guarantee now that they will turn up, the reality (from experience) is very different and I have often been sat there on my own wondering how to eat all the doughnuts/biscuits/cakes I have lovingly bought …

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