The name of John Hattie has become synonymous with feedback over the last few years in education circles. Many of the schools I have worked with have been looking at Hattie’s work and thinking about the types of feedback they give students and the impact that different types of feedback have on student learning. Coupled with an increasing awareness of assessment of, as, for learning, teachers are experimenting with ways of providing students with opportunities to grow their understandings of critical thinking and content through a range of assessment and feedback styles.
As a teacher, I’ve always been focused on doing more than just giving students a ‘well done’ on their work and at the same time searching for ways of giving feedback that will encourage students to take the next step in their learning. When working with Year 12 English students a few years ago, I experimented and tweaked a PEEL (see peelweb.org for more information about PEEL) strategy that encouraged students to keep feedback logs. In these logs, students would create a log of feedback that highlighted where they had demonstrated success and where they could continue to work on particular areas. In order to do this, they would read feedback given by me and then summarise that feedback into their logs. They would also use activities such as peer and self-assessed criteria to review their own learning and understanding, and notes on these would be added to their feedback logs. In using the feedback logs I was hoping that students would be able to chart their own progress over the year and that this would inform our discussions about their development and learning. One of the challenges of this approach was that as the time pressure of Year 12 intensified and led towards the final exams and the all dominating fear of what mark they might get on the final exam, students were driven to searching for the ‘quick fix’ when it came to feedback. They wanted it distilled down to the simplest of parts, the recipe for what would gain them the highest mark, the sure, never-fail strategy that would provide success. Such is the challenge of a system that is driven by assessment of learning and where students saw their future hopes as determined by a number on a final exam.
Despite these kinds of challenges, I continue to search for ways of giving feedback that encourage students to take an active part in their own learning. Following a couple of teachers on Twitter (@BiancaH80 and @alicelung), I saw ways that they were using the concepts of ‘Medals’ and ‘Missions’ when giving feedback to students. @BiancaH80 writes a blog about her teaching and has written an awesome post that I only read today about the ways she uses medals and missions http://biancahewes.wordpress.com/tag/geoff-petty/ Before that I’d just seen her twitter posts about using it and had gone from there to look into Petty, but then came across her post today so had to edit my blog to link to hers. What I first liked about this idea of using the medals and missions was the language as for many students who play computer and platform games, the idea of medals as things they have gained, and missions as the things they still need to accomplish, are familiar concepts.
I’d heard Black and William but not of Petty and again it was @BiancaH80’s tweets who alerted me to his work. Drawing on the work of Hattie and of Black and William, Geoff Petty describes medals as feedback on the work students have done well, while missions are the information about what a student needs to work on, develop further and explore. You can visit http://www.geoffpetty.com/feedback.html to find out more about what Petty says on this type of feedback. The medals and missions are related to the goals that we have for learning, so that students are aware of what they are working towards.
Towards the end of last term I decided to experiment with presenting feedback to my students in Years 7 & 8 French using the Medals and Missions approach. I was interested in seeing if the approach encouraged me to target more effectively the areas that students had done well, as well as what they still needed to work on, and I was also interested in seeing the student response to this kind of feedback.
The first class I used this feedback approach with was my Year 7 French class and after explaining the medals/ missions idea, I handed back some work students had recently completed. It was great to see that students were reading the feedback carefully and then asking questions about the kinds of strategies they could use to tackle the missions sections of their feedback. This was also the case with my Year 8 students, and it was great to see the Year 8s talking about the ways they wanted to grow their understandings.
At the end of the term I gave the students a self-evaluation where I asked them to reflect on their learning over the term and the activities/ strategies that had helped them to learn throughout the 9 weeks we had spent together. The students gave excellent feedback about their learning and about the strategies that worked well for them in helping them build an understanding of language and culture. When we return to school next week, we are going to start with our medals and missions for this term related to our goal of learning new vocabulary and developing new understandings about culture. I’m going to ask students to identify their medals from the previous term and then set themselves some missions for the term ahead.
So far, I’m liking the way that the medals and missions approach to feedback is encouraging students to process the feedback that I am giving them. The approach also encourages me to move away from bland feedback statements (eg ‘great work’ ) that are not actually related to the specifics of what students have done in their work, it encourages me to think about each student and their learning and the strategies that are going to help that student develop. So my mission, which I have chosen to accept, is to continue with the medals/ missions approach this term and see how it works for the students this term and what kinds of learning we may be able to bring about.