Feedback is the breakfast of champions

Feedback is an essential part of the learning process. In fact, feedback is one of the most powerful tools that teachers can use to enhance learning, as it can greatly improve student development and teaching quality. For children and adults alike, feedback provides us with the information, guidance and support we need to grow and advance. However, critical and constructive feedback is not always the easiest thing for us to hear or to be presented with. In fact, it can at times be quite difficult to receive, making us defensive as it reveals our vulnerabilities and sensitivities. On the other hand, overly affirmative and positive feedback is often only flattery and can potentially skew our own biases and limit our growth.

Having gone through my own feedback loop last year, it has taken me several months to fully appreciate the caring and honest feedback provided by my colleagues, our students, and families of the Junior School and ELC. Undergoing this process prompted me to consider how we deliver feedback and feedforward to our students, and how we can ensure that the feedforward teachers provide is centred on growth and development. When feedback and feedforward are promptly provided with targeted intent, particularly in a classroom setting, the gap between a student’s current and desired performance is bridged.

Feedback (how am I doing?) and feedforward (where to next?) form the cornerstone of our approach to assessment, reporting and evidencing learning in the Junior School and ELC. As teachers and parents, we can deliver feedback to our students using person-based or process-based terms, such as "You are clever" or "You worked hard". Such evaluative or judgmental feedback has limited value to improve student learning and can have negative effects on students’ desire to learn. However, when applying formative feedforward, learners can more clearly see the purpose of an activity and are effectively scaffolded on what they might do next. As a result, they are more engaged and motivated to apply new learning strategies and are more likely to apply reflective learning behaviours.

With the introduction of our small group learning approach (SGL) for Mathematics in the Junior School this year, the opportunity for more personalised, growth-orientated, targeted feedforward is greatly increased. Within the SGL model, we apply effective, instructive and dialogic feedback that sets in motion metacognitive thinking, helping our learners to know how to improve on their learning and to see the quality of their work against criteria. In addition, further advantages of the SGL approach include reduced teacher-student ratios, enabling increased differentiation and greater opportunities for content acceleration, the development of enduring conceptual understanding and learner-specific goalsetting.

Moving into a new semester and following the delivery of the year’s first end of semester reports, students and teachers have set new learning goals. These goals and the effort and work put in by students should be recognised, valued and acknowledged. As Term 3 begins, parents are encouraged to talk with their children about their new goals, be that academic, social, creative or physical, celebrating the successes along the way.

Mr Peter McDonald
Head of Junior School