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The Dichotomy of Feedback

Although I haven’t read his new book (yet), I’ve been thinking quite a lot about John Hattie’s idea about giving feedback being the most effective tool in a teachers armory.

That seems to be drawing a growing number of people into ever increasingly sophisticed rubrics – breaking down responses and drawing up ladders that show students where they are and what their next target is. And I can see the attraction in that. I’ve tried it myself over the years, and it seems to be one of the ideas that has resurfaced in the recent National Curriculum Review in England

But I can’t quite square that with my growing belief that learning should be student centred, and the fact that my lessons are increasingly open for students to go an explore and make discoveries. Maybe I’m just not a good enough teacher yet, but I don’t know how to make an achievement ladder for that, and I’m not sure it wouldn’t get in the way. After all, a student who has mastered getting information from a simple source now needs to apply those skills to a trickier source, but I’m not sure how to level that, or turn it into a grid.

It was with this in mind I came across this quote that I’d bookmarked a little while ago:

The mistake I was making was seeing feedback as something teachers provided to students—they typically did not, although they made claims that they did it all the time, and most of the feedback they did provide was social and behavioral. It was only when I discovered that feedback was most powerful when it is from the student to the teacher that I started to understand it better. When teachers seek, or at least are open to, feedback from students as to what students know, what they understand, where they make errors, when they have misconceptions, when they are not engaged—then teaching and learning can be synchronized and powerful. Feedback to teachers helps make learning visible.

Hattie, 2009; 173

This is one I’m going to need to come back to, perhaps when I’ve got my hands on a copy of the book, but I think it’s going to be on my mind for a while!

Dave Stacey

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