Insights – the importance of feedback

Dear Community,

Prominent Australian educational researcher, John Hattie, explains that “the most powerful single modification that enhances achievement is feedback.” Indeed, timely instruction and advice on what one can do differently in the future is crucial to effective learning.

Despite this, recent research indicates that Australian parents are largely dissatisfied with the quality of feedback and reporting provided in Australian schools. The study, conducted by Edumate in 2018, involved surveying over 1000 parents of students across all states and school settings about their child’s experience in receiving feedback and of school reports.

Some of the key findings seemed to confirm a strong belief that we have at our school that the triangular relationship between school, student and parent is vital for achieving positive results. The survey found a strong correlation between parent guidance and coaching and attainment of strong grades. However, the survey also found that parents felt “there is a big gap between what schools are providing in the way of feedback and what parents actually want.” It also found that “parents don’t feel they are getting the right information in a timely manner to support and coach their children.”

It seems that parents feel that the nature of the information and the esoteric educational jargon that they are receiving in school reports are not useful in empowering them to assist their children to improve. From time-to-time, governments have tried to intervene in this space and have, for example, previously stipulated mandatory five-point assessment scales which are presented in plain English.

At King David we have undertaken a number of changes to try to ensure that the feedback is relevant, useful and timely. In the Junior School we have added a third formal Parent-Teacher Interview evening to ensure that there is more time for direct face-to-face communication. This year in the Senior School we launched Online Continuous Reporting. This model provides rolling, contemporaneous feedback to parents throughout the school year so we can avoid the delays that can inhibit student progress.

Across the wider education community, proponents of the Flipped Classroom model, in which traditional classroom teaching and homework elements are reversed, believe that there is value in reorganising education around the instantaneous delivery of feedback in order to overcome the phenomenon that shows that uncorrected errors can quickly become entrenched and are exceedingly difficult to unlearn at a latter point.

Advocates argue that the length of the feedback cycle in traditional schools is damaging. For example, a student might misunderstand a mathematical concept that is explained in class. They misapply it in their maths home learning which they submit the following week. By the time the Maths teacher corrects the work, realises that there is a problem and finds an opportunity to explain this, a significant lag time has passed.

However, in the flipped model, classroom instruction regarding content and conceptual ideas is largely undertaken outside of class time via readings, podcasts or online lessons and the classroom time is reserved for application of knowledge in front of a teacher who is able to immediately rectify errors of process or understanding. A model of continuous reporting prevents a further lag as parents gain access to relevant information and are able to help reinforce these lessons in the home setting.

Separate to reporting to parents, our teachers are constantly improving the manner of their feedback delivery to our students. For instance, staff across the School have undertaken training in strengths-based character traits as one of the frameworks used to enhance student awareness of their positive dispositions. Providing for a range of assessment models including self-reflection tools is also important in ensuring that our feedback is targeted, directed towards improvement and consolidation of what has worked.

Through adopting a robust model of assessing and reporting and using whatever communication tools we have to enhance the vital relationship between school and home, we are continuing to ensure that our systems best support our students to strive to achieve to their fullest potential.

Shabbat Shalom,

Marc Light

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