An extract taken from High Performance Learning World Class School St Mary's Cambridge's Accolade Magazine written by Global Lead Teacher Dr Andrew Flint.
Feedback from teachers to pupils is a vital aspect of effective Teaching and Learning. It has a particularly central role within the High Performance Learning framework, because it fits entirely with the ‘with the students, not to them’ approach. This year we have chosen to make student engagement with feedback the central aspect of the House Points system: students receive House Points for successfully improving their work on the basis of the feedback from their teacher.
Effective feedback avoids trait-based comments such as ‘You’re so clever’ or ‘Great work – just what I would expect.’ These phrases suggest that the child possesses innate qualities or permanent, pre-established traits that cause them to succeed. They send the message that their ability levels are fixed. Instead, as an HPL school we encourage students to develop a growth mindset, to be confident that, through dedication and focused practice, all students can achieve at a high level.
When students focus on the grade or the mark they receive, they tend to compare themselves with their peers or to see the grade as the most important aspect of the work. Furthermore, problems can develop when students who are always used to achieving high grades find new work challenging and their grades dip. A student who has always received praise for being ‘intelligent’ and who believes that intelligence is a fixed trait beyond their control is less likely to possess the resilience to seek new ways to think or work that will be necessary for success as the material they study becomes more complex.
In contrast, HPL helps to create a culture in which the score on the work is less important than the lessons that they learn from it for the future. Instead of comments relating only to that piece of work, they receive guidance that helps to develop their metacognition, and advice on the kinds of skills or approaches that they might employ to improve in the future. It might encourage students to find connections with other work in that subject or to reflect upon how what they have learned in other curriculum areas might help them to see the bigger picture or wider topic.
Here are some examples:
• How did you get that answer? Could you explain what you did?
• Why do you think this piece of work was so successful?
• What made you pick this strategy to answer the question?
• Could you try a different strategy next time?
• What could you do differently?
• Compare this essay to the one you wrote at the
start of the year: what is different?
• This is a fascinating answer. Can you tell me more: what else do you think about this question?
• Has this work shown you any gaps in your understanding? What could you do about this?
• Where do you think this answer fits into the bigger picture?
• What skills did you use to answer this question?
• What other subjects could you use to help you understand this topic better?
By providing feedback that takes the form of questions of this kind, we encourage students to reflect upon how they can improve and take greater responsibility for their own learning. It supports them not to see the grade or mark as the main objective but rather to see their work as part of an ongoing process of improvement over which they have agency. Supporting students to develop a growth mindset helps them to succeed not only now, but in their future education and on into the adult lives and careers.