Model Secondary History Feedback policy

So, a lot of people are looking to revamp their feedback policies at the moment so I thought I would put something together that may be of use if anybody is currently looking to do this for history. Also, a lot of this is applicable outside of history as well.

Step 1 – Feedback not marking

The purpose of anything we do is to improve the students’ work. So much time is wasted on marking, which is designed to create a score or a mark to record in a planner somewhere. This has a place in tracking progress of students or comparing them to previous years but it is far from an effective use of our time if done regularly. Where the most progress is to be made is in creating feedback, that feeds forwards. The difference between feedback and marking is that for feedback, we are giving the students directions on how to improve. The critical element is then ensuring you give students ample time to improve.

Step 2 – Whole class feedback

 This is one of the key elements in feedback and can save staff a lot of time, while also improving outcomes for students. I enjoy using crib sheets and Greg Thornton uploaded some examples several years ago that I think are great (here) and created a guide on how to use them (here). Using this technique you can get through a class set of 30 books in anything from 10 – 30 minutes depending upon how you do it. The process should look as follows:

  1. Students complete a written piece of work that is the product of several lessons of knowledge and technique building. Students should have a success criteria that enables this success. Students should also be given sufficient time to complete the work, there is minimal point in marking work that is rushed or incomplete. 
  2. Ideally, students should check their work before submitting it. This means finishing their writing and checking it against the success criteria. Time can be given to add anything additional at this point
  3. Work is collected and the teacher creates the feedback. This is where several approaches can be taken

   i) look through the books of students of differing abilities/current points in their history flight paths. Use a sample of 5-10 to create general targets for the class, as seen in appendix 1 in the areas to develop section. 

   ii) create the areas to develop section as you go along and add student initials beside each success criteria, depending upon their targets

  iii) write the student’s targets in their books where they are applicable. For example, write SC1 or SC2. Nothing more. The students will have these sheets stuck into their books/can write the targets down later.

  1. Middle step – You can use the spare time you have saved from the marking to think about how you get the students to improve their work. This is the step most missed out/done badly. If students struggled with precise descriptive detail, how do you teach them how to do that? If they weren’t comparative in their conclusion, think of a task that enables that. Even writing out a sample answer yourself, live, via a visualiser can be useful for this
  2. Students improve their answers. You can get them to re-write it entirely if you really want to, more often than not I get students to add in what I believe was missing. Get them to do this in a different coloured pen so they can review their improvements in the future. 
  3. Before finishing, and this step is critical, students have to check/highlight where they have met their targets set for them on the crib sheet. This shows improvement and reflection. Occasionally, students will realise they may not have hit the target and may need to improve further.

Step 3 – Knowledge checking

 There is no point in teachers taking their time to go through every single page of a students book and check that the knowledge in there is correct, this can be done through peer and self-reflection. At the end of a task, go through the answers on the board as a class and ask students to tick anything that they get correct and add anything that they get wrong, again in a different coloured pen so they can see where their mistakes were in the future. Students should also be asked to fill in any notes that they have missed out on where the task suits. This includes the checking of retrieval quizzes that students should self-assess at the beginning of every lesson. 

 Circulate around the class to ensure that students have completed this and to ensure notes are as uniform as possible/match what you have written on the board.

Step 4 – Questioning

This is the most powerful tool in a teacher’s arsenal. I wrote a blog on questioning here if you want more detail on it.  You should expect to see feedback through questioning and circulation that embraces the following:

  1. Cold calling – targeting students without their hands up to ensure understanding and engagement
  2. Right is right – don’t add to students’ answers. Often teachers get excited and create full sentences out of a basic answer given by a student. Get the student to do this. Don’t accept half right/half baked answers. Ask for students to expand upon the answers they have given already.
  3. Ask why – this is important for metacognition. Ask students to explain why they think what they do. This is useful for answers they get right and answers they get wrong
  4. Academic language – expect students to give answers in an academic manner. If students use colloquial language, ask them to repeat the answer again in a more academic way
  5. Delve deeper – create problems, play devil’s advocate, ask them to compare. These are just some ways you can develop students’ thinking.

Step 5 – So what should we see?

 This is a key question you may be asked by inspectors or SLT who come to visit. It is simple:

  1. Knowledge regularly self/peer assessed with a pen that is a different colour. This will include ticks where knowledge is correct and notes added in that colour if they were incorrect/missing.
  2. Whole class feedback sheets in the book
  3. Students improving extended written answers based upon the whole class feedback
  4. Knowledge retrieval quizzes that are self/peer assessed
  5. Evidence of students improving work as a result of an effective “middle step”
  6. Questioning within the classroom that doesn’t accept the first answer and adopts a “right is right” approach

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