Sunday, 6 December 2015

Two Stars and a Wish... for Better Feedback: Part 2

In my last post, I reflected on how I had used highlighters as a tool for self and peer assessment. These are a great tool for getting students to highlight where specific skills have been applied but with that application of peer assessment, there is still a crucial barrier to effective peer assessment: untrained students.  This can be a particular problem if your students are always swapping work with the same person as, if their peer assessor is giving poor targets, then they will consistently get a bad deal in comparison to others students; this can be especially problematic in lower sets or mixed ability classes.

In order to give every student more 'bang for their buck', I've taken to using gallery feedback when students peer assess extended pieces of writing.  However, I've adapted the method that I've shamelessly stolen from others on Twitter to support students in covering a wider range of skills for feedback, whilst keeping the great opportunities that it offers to students (in terms of reading other students' work as models and also in the engagement with mark schemes that it provides).

I also want to stress how I feel about allowing students to talk during this process; some teachers I know of have encouraged students to complete gallery feedback in silence, though I feel that (if feedback is to be effective) students should have the opportunity to discuss the targets they're giving.  Additionally, I also believe that making the task an unstructured 'wander around the room' could be problematic- as it leaves students open to gather for a chat with friends as well as stopping each child from getting the same feedback coverage.

My approach, then, has always been fairly systematic: students start the feedback with several postits (one for each stage of the feedback) that they write their names on.  The naming gives a degree of accountability as well as enabling students to follow up on any targets that they want further clarification on.  After this, students then move one seat over and assess the first piece of work for a specific skill (range of vocabulary, for example), highlighting and annotating where the writing demonstrates these skills and using the postit to write a strength and a target that is left with the piece of work.

Of course, this could get very tedious and it would also be ineffective to keep the same assessment criteria when students move on to the next piece of work, as there is little value to the task if the student ends up with several postits with the same feedback.  It is for this reason that I change the criteria each time that students move to the next seat- thus allowing them to assess a range of skills as well as ensuring that each student gets different areas to work on.

Often this will take a full lesson to do thoroughly, as I often ask students to share the strengths and targets that they are giving along the way to model this process for others.  It also means that, in the second part of the lesson, I can give students a chance to choose which target(s) they wish to work on by redrafting a section of their work and then self assessing their progress at the end of the lesson.

I've found that this is particularly good when preparing students for assessments/exams (through both KS3 and KS4), as it clearly demonstrates how they are eventually assessed on a number of skills through one task.  On top of this, it allows them to see other examples as models (something that I encourage by getting them to reflect on what they have learnt from reading the other examples before they generate their redraft).

If you have tried anything similar, please let me know your thoughts by commenting or tweeting me (@borismcdonald). I'm also going to be tweeting some examples of this feedback in the following week.

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