Effective feedback to support independent learners

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Palmerston Primary School have developed an approach to assessment for learning that ensures pupils act upon the feedback they receive.

Number of learners: 227
Age range: 3-11
Date of inspection: November 2016

Information about the school

Palmerston Primary School is in Barry in the Vale of Glamorgan.  There are 227 pupils on roll aged three to eleven.  The school has eight classes, most of which are single age classes.  In addition, the school has a resource base for pupils with complex physical and medical disabilities funded by the local authority.  These pupils integrate fully into mainstream classes and access a modified curriculum. 

Context and background to sector-leading practice

Due to thorough self-evaluation, the school decided to prioritise its deeper understanding in terms of the role that effective feedback could have on improving standards in pupils’ work.  As part of this journey, the school chose to focus on the different components of ‘Assessment for Learning’, after realising that proper assessment cannot take place unless pupils have a clear understanding of these elements and how they combine.  This has led to a series of successful staff training sessions.  Working together, the staff developed a consistent approach to marking which involves clear next steps.  The vital component to success is ensuring that the pupils act upon the advice that staff give them.  Targets that both the teachers and pupils generated draw directly from differentiated success criteria that develop progressively in terms of its challenge.  Regular reviews of these elements enable staff to refine and develop the effectiveness of these comments and the impact is evident in pupils’ work and in their understanding of how to improve. 

Description of nature of strategy or activity

Taking marking and feedback to the next level - ensuring accelerated learning through pupil involvement. 

For the last two years, the school has delivered a programme of staff training that focuses well on different Assessment for Learning elements each month.  They include; developing clear learning objectives, pupil involvement, progressive success criteria, peer/self-assessment and high quality questioning.  These are all key elements to ensure effective feedback that supports accelerated learning.  These sessions provide staff with regular opportunities to work together, discuss and plan for a joint focus within their trust group.  Following these sessions, peer observations in small groups allow staff to practise their skills, reflect on their own practice and engage in honest dialogue through coaching style feedback. 

In order to develop the quality of written feedback, staff decided to change their approach to book scrutiny.  Previously, scrutiny of pupils’ books involved the Senior Leadership Team, followed by general feedback to staff.  Two years ago the school began to review this process to enable a more inclusive and effective way of embedding improvement.  This process involved staff sharing their books during a staff meeting and carrying out an audit based on Estyn guidelines as a starting point.  Staff recognised elements that needed to improve and, through revisiting them regularly and taking part in honest dialogue, developed an appropriate action plan to do so.

Through this journey, staff developed a feedback approach that is positive, specific and shows pupils the next steps clearly.  They use a visual indicator to highlight aspects of good work in one colour and ways forward in another.  After trialling this method, leaders gave staff an opportunity to share their findings with them.  Staff found that highlighting less and using language that is more succinct was a better use of their time.  A later review of books showed that some pupils were still not acting upon comments, so staff agreed to use one precise question as a next step that pupils would have to follow up.  Allowing pupils time at the start of a lesson and a set session at the end of the week, called ‘Feedback Friday,’ gave teachers more time to review learning alongside them, which had been an area of concern for some staff.  Giving pupils more ownership of their learning through referencing the success criteria enabled them to generate their own targets in a meaningful way within lessons.  Both teachers and pupils are now able to celebrate achievement, precisely related to the success criteria and generate an effective way forward.  Even more crucially, pupils now act upon these comments and progress is clear. 

What impact has this work had on provision and learners’ standards?

  • Nearly all pupils know their personal targets well and understand what they need to do to achieve them.
  • All teachers monitor pupils’ progress effectively and use this information well to plan challenging learning experiences that lead to improvements in pupils’ work. 
  • Nearly all pupils make progress, which is at least good, and a minority make exceptional progress during their time in school.
  • Nearly all pupils with Additional Learning Needs make very good progress in relation to their personal targets.
  • Teaching is at least good and often excellent.
  • Using the principles of Assessment for Learning at every stage of the pupils’ learning journey has encouraged pupils to lead their own learning and thus embed the school’s vision of creating confident, secure independent learners.

How have you shared your good practice?

Palmerston has shared this practice beyond the school through conferences and best practice training for Central South Consortium Joint Education Service.  The school provides training for a Learning Support Assistants network within the local cluster schools.  It has also shared its journey by leading twilight sessions for other schools within the regional consortium.

Links: www.palmerstonprimary.com