Developing effective oral feedback exchanges: supporting children’s writing at key stage two.

Deborah Jones, Brunel University.

This study has been initiated by teachers in a primary partnership school who have questioned the value and impact of giving detailed written feedback on children’s writing. Their concerns are evident in a wider context where some teachers feel they have been overburdened by policies requiring them to carry out feedback via ‘˜deep’ marking approaches. A report by the Education Endowment Foundation (2016) supports these views identifying that teachers felt written feedback ‘had become unnecessarily burdensome’ (ibid. p.4). The report of the Independent Teacher Workload Review Group (2016) recommends that schools re-think their approaches and highlights the effectiveness of oral feedback.

There is considerable evidence supporting the value of giving feedback-both oral and written- (Hattie, 2016). This research will have a specific focus on the ways in which oral feedback can be developed to support the compositional aspects of children’s writing. In this project, teachers themselves will be co researchers and active participants. Children also will reflect on the nature and helpfulness of the feedback exchange and make their thinking about the learning process explicit.

This project is informed by key principles of Assessment for Learning (AfL). Black & Wiliam state that formative assessment ‘˜involves some degree of feedback between those taught & the teacher and that this is entailed in the quality of the interaction which is at the heart of dialogue’ (1998:16). Fundamental to this research will be the hypothesis that one of the most effective forms of feedback on children’s writing, takes place through dialogue and reflection. Marshall and Brindley (2015) develop the concept of dialogic teaching (Alexander, 2008) through their work on dialogic assessment in secondary English classrooms. Building on this, the proposed research seeks to explore the nature of that interaction between teachers and pupils and analyse both pupils’ and teachers’ perspectives on the effectiveness of feedback.

Within the project school, staff employ dialogic teaching methods and are keen to explore the ways in which cumulative dialogue can be embedded in their feedback exchanges. The aim is first to make current oral feedback approaches explicit. Secondly the project will develop approaches where teachers and children build on one another’s contributions- establishing coherent lines of reasoning to support the development of writing. The project will develop aspects of high quality teacher-child interactions, focussing on dialogue within feedback exchanges which both scaffolds children’s critical thinking and leads them towards independence as writers.

Project Update

Developing effective oral feedback exchanges: supporting children’s writing at key stage two.

The fieldwork with teachers and children as described in the proposal, has been done and all filming, interviews and transcription completed. The data has been analysed and dissemination undertaken with the wider project school. I have now given a keynote at a consortium of Hertfordshire schools on the place of dialogue in effective feedback which is an interesting development providing opportunities to further extend the project. Over 100 teachers and headteachers attended this and the response was a positive one as staff engaged with oral feedback and the implications this has for language used and harnessing ‘evidence’. There will now be an ongoing working group of which I will be a part. Additionally, the proposal I submitted for the UKLA International Conference has been accepted and I look forward to presenting my work later in the year. The article for submission in the UKLA journal ‘Literacy’ is now close to completion.

The impact of UKLA funding on my work

The funding received has enabled me to undertake focussed research. The nature of the project required teachers and children to be released from the classroom, filmed and interviewed. Supply cover could not have been found without this funding. Additionally it has enabled me to employ a transcriber for the many transcripts- again- given the nature of my role at the university, I would not have had sufficient time to complete this myself.

Apart from facilitating the practical aspects of the project, this funding has enabled a genuine engagement in exploring the place of language in oral feedback. It has developed both teaching and learning in a meaningful way not only within the project school- but in other schools within the locality. It has also impacted my teaching of students at a variety of levels within the university context.   

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