No Feedback No Learning! A comprehensive guide to feedback in the classroom with Professor Paul Kirschner

Join James Simms (The EverLearner podcast) in conversation with Distinguished Professor Paul Kirschner of the Open Universiteit Netherlands. The conversation is a thorough examination of the use of feedback in the classroom. Paul and James cover levels of feedback questions, the timing of feedback, the differences between feedback, feed up and feed forward and the importance of corrective, directive and epistemic feedback. Original source here.


Formative Assessment and Feedback

Quality formative assessment allows us to give quality feedback.

Thank you to Emily King (Northern Yorke Partnerships SLLIP coordinator) for speaking with us about feedback in week 4. It was a timely reminder that feedback, when done well, can have a significant impact on students learning. The majority of teachers at PBAS are familiar with Dylan Wiliam’s work attending his workshop in Port Pirie February 2014. At the time I wrote a post summarising his presentation. Click here to have a read. It was at this time we decided to focus on Formative Assessment as a focus for two years (2014/2015).

I remember how enthused teachers were after Dylan Wiliam’s workshop. This was evident in the 45 PBAS teacher comments attached to the post form February 2014. Click here to read through the comments or if you prefer read the following snippets:

Justin Brook (2014) – “Dylan William is an inspiration. We can’t ignore this I believe in the next 2 years we need to be addressing and implementing change and developing practice in all 5 areas.”

Valmai Skelton (2014)“I like the way he clarified that it’s best to do one at a time so that it naturally becomes a part of your pedagogy. I have marked my notes so that I know which ones fit my class. I have also put a little sticky note in my programme to remind me to clearly let the children know the learning intention.

Aaron Ward (2014) – “…would make a profound change to student outcomes if as a whole site we embedded it and made it part of a culture change.

Jackie McLoughlin (2014) – “It was great day, one where I left feeling motivated and eager to make some changes and I have started already.

Angela Ingram (2014) – “Having previously attended sessions run by Guy Claxton I found this to be a great follow up to our previous work. Learning some new techniques to use in the classroom that can be used with any age level was excellent. I found Dylan to be an enthralling speaker and the way he modelled his techniques throughout the day was brilliant.

Paul Townsend (2014) – “My first goal was to use the “no hands up” concept at the start of ALL discussions. This instantly dragged in each student into the discussions. Not accepting a “don’t know” or stunned silence and then moving on was hard not to do but reaped results. I heard from students in my class that up until Thursday had been “silent” learners. I do still allow “hands up” to satisfy the desperate to share students in my class but after the discussion has gone on a bit. My next target is to make a class set of A,B,C,D (and E) cards to use for instant feedback for some whiteboard exercises.”

Tanya Hacket (2014) – “It is unlikely that I will go to another training and development conference this year which would be as motivating and inspiring. I am going to try the paddle pop sticks to encourage everyone to listen and participate and will also not accept a “I don’t know” – how to respond to that statement was one of the best parts for me – so logical, but I wouldn’t have thought of it – I have said, ‘Alright I will come back to you”, but never “Okay which response do you think is appropriate”.

Tanya Hacket (2014) – “Wow, it is amazing how that one day has inspired so many to endeavour to embed formative assessment into their daily routines. I have loved reading about what everyone has tried and the reaction of students.

Kelly Heading (2014) – “I was a little skeptical of Dylan’s suggestion to write a statement on the board rather than a question but was absolutely astounded at the reaction in my class. I ended up sitting back for a few minutes listening to them all chatter away about what I had written on the board. I asked them to prove me right or wrong and had an almost evenly divided class. They either believed I was wrong and confidently backed up why (I had deliberately written a false statement) or believed I was right “because Miss Heading wrote it”. We have a few things to work on here!

Allan Cadd (2014) – “…the aspect I have tried was the pass out card. At the end of a science lesson I asked to students to write the answer to a question relating to what I had been going through on the board during the lesson. The answer took about a minute and the students then handed in the piece of paper with their name on it to me as they left. In less than 2 minutes I had sorted out into two piles those that had the correct answer and those that had it wrong. I then binned the responses, which was strange, but kind of satisfying as they had served their purpose.” …there was only one student in the class that was able to answer the question correctly, suggesting that my explanation was not thorough enough and that the students were not at a stage to work on these questions independently.”

Allan Cadd (2014) – “I am sitting here on sunday night after spending 5 minutes going through my first attempt of using exit tickets with my year 9/10 maths class. Quite frankly I would have to say that this is a revelation. The students who I knew would struggle as they often ask for help in the class due to having difficulties did struggle, but the other students with the exception of NONE also struggled, many who have said that they are doing well, generally answer questions in class discussions and are quite advanced through the set work.

Roger Nottage (2014) – “It’s been great to read and reflect on the comments you have all made. I enjoyed the big picture messages gleaned from the day as well as the in classroom techniques. Personally I have a Year 8 Maths class in 2014. Loving it! I trialled an exit card on Thursday 6/2 and then used the data to form 3 groups, two explicit teaching moments (different concepts targeted) and one extension group. Yesterday I used thumbs up & down to get small groups to indicate their opinion about the accuracy of some problems a student had done on the whiteboard.

It would be an interesting reflection process to see if what was developed during these two years is actually still being used in our day to day practice. How many of us have applied and maintained techniques like no hands up, exit tickets, mini whiteboards, corners, think pair share, two stars and a wish, carousel brainstorming, jigsaw, ABCD cards and basketball discussions? It is these formative assessment strategies that if implemented effectively give us the important information to provide quality feedback to our students about how they are going and where they can go next to improve.

Those that were not part of the Dylan Wiliam training can click here to access a range of resources on formative assessment.

Comments welcome.

I say well done and good job too much!

I take a fair bit of video in my R/1 PE class because it helps me identify student achievement. While I was watching a video of my students doing some ball handling skills, which included dribbling, catching and throwing I noticed that my feedback during that section of the lesson was a combination of phrases like well done and good job. While this type of praise can make students smile and feel good it does not necessarily improve learning.

I’m not discounting general praise statements, for some students it is exactly what they need. I could have however been providing my students much more specific feedback/praise to reinforce the cues I had asked students to focus on when they were catching, throwing and dribbling. For example – watch the ball (don’t look away), when you catch the ball have your arms outstretched not by your side, have soft fingers and big hands, use the tips of your fingers to bounce the ball not your palm and so on. By saying well done I am not acknowledging the specific learning the student has applied, for example, that was a great catch because you held your arms out in front of you. The child is much more likely to hold their arms out in front next time because I have positively reinforced that specific behaviour.

It is not new to me that specific/targeted feedback is more effective than general praise but that has not stopped me from defaulting to a natural response when a child does something well. During a fast paced and busy PE lesson it is easier to revert back to a natural response than it is to identify clearly to the student what they are doing well. It took a video of my teaching to remind me of that.

Have you ever seen or heard yourself teach?
What do you think you would discover if you did?

Why ask for student feedback?

Being open to improvement and accepting feedback is an important part of being a teacher. There are a number of ways we can do this:

  1. Peer observation: Meet prior to discuss a focus and meet after to discuss what was observed and how it can be used to develop practice.
  2. Video observation: Video a lesson to watch and reflect on practice. You could also sit with a peer and discuss your reflections and ask for their input.
  3. Observe a peer: Sit in on the class of a peer you respect, has the same subject area or a similar year level to you. Have a focus for your observation and spend time discussing what you observed with the teacher.
  4. Student feedback: Ask your students what they think of your teaching. Have a focus and be specific with your questions.

All feedback can be valuable but student feedback provides a type of feedback that the others cannot. What your students think is important, it will impact directly on their attitude towards you as a teacher and how much they are willing to listen and therefore learn when they are in your classroom.

Asking for student feedback can improve your relationship with your students. If students see that you value their feedback and make changes to your practice based on that feedback they are more likely value you as a teacher.

Be open with your students about what you would like to improve. For example let them know that previous feedback has identified that you talk too much during lessons and you would like help to reduce teacher talk and increase student engagement.

“One of the biggest frustrations students have is the feeling of a “double-standard”: We expect them to grow and change daily, yet we often don’t model growth and change ourselves.” By asking for and using feedback we are modelling that it is important to continue to improve ourselves.

Give students time to develop their ability to provide feedback. Clearly explain the purpose of the feedback understanding that it may take some practice on their part and continued explanation on yours to ensure the feedback is useful. Provide students with clear and specific questions. This will support them in providing you with quality feedback. For example:

  • What’s one thing I should keep doing [during instruction, when giving directions, etc.]?
  • What’s one thing I should stop doing [. . .]?
  • What’s one thing I should do differently [. . .]?
  • What’s the most annoying thing I do [when lecturing, when assigning homework, etc.]?
  • What’s the best thing I do to help you learn [. . .]?
  • What could I do to give you better feedback [on your writing, on your quizzes, etc.]?
  • What did you like about the assignment I gave last night?
  • What did you dislike about the assignment I gave last night?
  • “When you ________________________, I usually stop paying attention.”

Use the feedback provided by students. Ultimately this is why you asked for the feedback in the first place. Try to look at what students say without justifying or explaining away the feedback. Try to find patterns in student feedback to match your own reflections or feedback from peers. Future feedback will be taken more seriously if students see you have used previous feedback.

Finally the Grattan Institute’s report titled Engaging Students: Creating classrooms that improve learning identifies that tools like surveys “can give useful feedback after the lesson and over longer periods. For example, intermittent student feedback surveys can give teachers a ‘pulse check’ on what is working well” and “enables teachers to get feedback on their methods”.

The Grattan Institute acknowledge student engagement is a problem in Australian schools and while the causes of that disengagement are varied and debatable they identify that an immediate solution is to build the capacity of teachers to create classrooms that improve learning. By asking for and using student feedback we are utilising a powerful resource to make this happen.

Reflecting on practice 2: Feedback

For a more detailed look at feedback read this great article from Dylan Wiliam called The Secret of Effective Feedback.

"But as many studies have shown, students often learn less when teachers provide feedback than they do when the teacher writes nothing (Kluger & DeNisi, 1996). The apparently simple process of looking at student work and then giving useful feedback turns out to be much more difficult than most people imagine. We could make the whole process considerably more effective by understanding one central idea: The only important thing about feedback is what students do with it." Dylan Wiliam 2016

Professional reading from Facebook and Twitter Part 13

Reading number 1

Source: You Tube

You Tube Video: How you can be good at math, and other surprising facts about learning | Jo Boaler

Posted on Twitter by  @TurraNick

Reading number 2

Blog: Teacher Solutions

Blog post: To Mark or not to Mark, that is the question

Posted on Facebook by  Karen Cornelius in the group Share Network for the Australian Curriculum, SA – SNAC SA

Reading number 3

Blog: Global Digital Citizen Foundation

Blog post: Giving Student Feedback: 7 Best Practices for Success

Posted on Facebook by  Brenton Wilson in the group TfEL Teachers’ Companion

Forms of Feedback and Assessment Strategies

The links below (the titles) will take you to some useful information on providing feedback and assessment strategies. I thought they might be useful for professional reading if anyone was looking for ideas or had a focus in these areas as part of their professional development.

All information is from the Board of Studies and Educational Standards NSW website.

Effective Feedback

Teacher feedback about student learning is essential for students and integral to teaching, learning and assessment. Feedback can clarify for students:

  • how their knowledge, understanding and skills are developing in relation to the syllabus outcomes and content being addressed
  • how to improve their learning.

Primary Assessment Strategies

Secondary Assessment Strategies

The purpose of assessment is to gather valid, reliable and useful information about student learning in order to:

  • monitor student achievement in relation to outcomes
  • guide future teaching and learning opportunities
  • provide ongoing feedback to students to improve learning.


Technology, PE and Assessment for Learning

Dylan Wiliam presents 5 Key Strategies as part of Assessment for Learning.

  1. Clarifying, sharing and understanding learning intentions & success criteria.
  2. Eliciting evidence of learners’ achievements.
  3. Providing feedback that moves the learning forward.
  4. Activating students as instructional resources for one and other.
  5. Activating students as owners of their own learning.

These key strategies underpin a wide range of techniques that can be explored in Dylan Wiliam’s book, Embedded Formative Assessment.

For the past 2 years I have continued to develop and trial the use of technology in my PE classes. During term 1 this year I tried to incorporate the use of iPads and an app called Easytag to create an process that allowed Assessment for Learning to occur.

During my 7/8 volleyball and 9/10 badminton classes in term 1 this year I decided to use the iPad app Easytag to allow students to record data relating to their performance. The app allowed the class to record statistics relating to student performance. My 7/8 volleyball class collected data on successful digs, sets, serves and unsuccessful shots with the purpose of creating ratios of successful to unsuccessful shots. This occurred at various points throughout the unit to analyse if performance was improving and in what area. My 9/10 badminton class recorded where their badminton shuttle was landing in their opponents court during a game (front L/R, middle L/R and rear L/R). The purpose was to improve the spread of shots played i.e. not hitting all shots into the mid court. Both groups had to use this data to try and demonstrate improvement over the course of the unit.

9/10 Badminton – The Easytag panel was used by a partner to record a students shuttle placement during a competitive game. The example below is one of four panels recorded during the unit. This data was transferred to a proforma in the student’s PE book allowing for easy comparison. The data shows the student was able to improve their spread of shots to the front and rear of the court during the course of the unit.

Note: The data from the Easytag panels and student proforma below are not from the same student.

Panel (ignore the numbers in the far right column)

Seb set 1

Data from the Easytag app was collated on a single sheet. The aim was for students to improve the spread of shots, not having all shots in one area of the court.

Tiana badminton7/8 Volleyball – Students created panels in the Easytag app that displayed the information seen below on the recording proforma. Data was transferred from the app to this proforma so students could see improvement (or not) over time. The student below could see significant improvement from a ratio of approximately 1 successful to 1 unsuccessful shot at the beginning of the unit to a ratio of 4 successful shots to every unsuccessful shot near the end of the unit.

Cooper Volleyball


How has this use of technology helped me to address Dylan Wiliam’s Assessment for Learning Strategies?

Strategy – Eliciting evidence of learners’ achievement

The data was accessible to me on student iPads or in their HPE books for me to view. This information gave me starting points to have discussions with students about what could occur next at a lesson by lesson level. The data provided me with evidence of student learning at three different points during the term.

Reflection – I would have students complete at least one more set of data (most collected 3 data sets) to provide a more constant flow of evidence giving me a better picture of student learning and progress.

Strategy – Provide feedback that moves learning forward

The data was taken at varying points during the unit. The first set of data was taken at the beginning of the unit giving students a starting point to improve on. The second set of data gave students a further reference point indicating if they were heading in the right direction. Explicit teaching, lesson by lesson feedback about how to improve, student commitment and collaboration with peers was required to enable students to successfully use the data.

Reflection – As I have already mentioned I would try to include at least one more set of data during the unit. This would allow students (and me) to access more feedback about their progress at more regular intervals.

Strategy – Helps activate students as instructional resources for one and other

Students showed the data to their partner at the end of each game and quickly discussed strengths and weaknesses. There is no way that I could have assisted all students to collate and receive this amount of data over the course of the unit. Students became resources for each other providing data to move learning forward.

Reflection – I would strengthen these discussions. I did not monitor them closely and suspect that these were not as effective as they could have been. In the future I would include a more formal process of analysis to help students focus on the data more effectively.

Strategy – Activate students as owners of their own learning

Students had concrete data to work with. They could see areas of weakness i.e. I have no successful serves (7/8 volleyball) or I have not been able to hit any shots into the rear court (9/10 badminton). Students were encouraged to use this information to focus on how they could improve (own the learning).  It was entirely up to them to demonstrate through the data their learning over the course of the unit.

Reflection – While students were required to take ultimate responsibility to use the data to try and improve I needed to get around to students more regularly and have conversations about their data to help them direct there own learning.

QUESTION NUMBER 1 – How do you address the following key strategies of assessment for learning?

  1. Clarifying, sharing and understanding learning intentions & success criteria.
  2. Eliciting evidence of learners’ achievements.
  3. Providing feedback that moves the learning forward.
  4. Activating students as instructional resources for one and other.
  5. Activating students as owners of their own learning.

QUESTION NUMBER 2 – What techniques do you have at your disposal to address the 5 key strategies of Assessment for Learning?

1. Click HERE to read more about Assessment for Learning and access a range of techniques to help improve your ability to formatively assess your students.

I use ego based feedback ……… a lot!

During our recent student free day (term 1) part of my talk to staff was about ‘ego based feedback’ and ‘tasked based feedback’. Part of this revolved around the importance of task based feedback to assist with student learning. There seemed to be a general consensus that a combination of both was necessary. I do believe however that task based feedback is more important to learning but do agree that a combination is important. So after having raised this with staff it was interesting to listen to myself giving feedback to the receptions during an throwing activity I did with them. It’s amazing how many ‘good boy’ and ‘good girl’ statements I fitted into such a short space of time. Approximately a ratio of 14 good boy/girl statements  to 1 task based piece of feedback. I see a use for ego based feedback but would prefer the ratio to be weighted in the favour of task based feedback. I knew that I used ego based feedback quite a bit with the receptions but until I listened to myself was not aware how much. My aim now is to improve this ratio in favour of task based feedback during term 2.

It is amazing what we don’t pick up when we are in the middle of a lesson and what we can pick up when we use video or have someone observe our teaching.