Folding feedback into learning

Number #2 in an occasional series of short posts on feedback, appearing in no particular order

FoldLast year, I visited a lesson in which pupils were analysing a newspaper article. They read the article as a class, then – in pairs, so that they were having to articulate their ideas before committing them to paper – they wrote answers to a set of questions. The level of analysis and of expression was variable but, on the whole, not very high:

 ‘The purpose of the article is to tell about what happened.’

‘The headline really grabs the reader’s attention’

The teacher then led class feedback. Pupils read out answers, which were critiqued. The teacher used questioning to deepen their thinking and – in talk – modelled more extended and more precise expression, using academic language.

This was done with skill. But then the lesson ended and the pupils went away, carrying with them their pages of low-level analysis.

As it happened, the teacher had the opportunity to teach the same lesson later in the week, with a parallel class. After reflection, we changed the sequence. Again, pupils discussed the questions in pairs but this time they committed nothing to paper. Then the teacher led a discussion, again using questioning to deepen their thinking and again modelling more extended and more precise expression. Then the pupils wrote answers to the questions, in silence. This time, the level of analysis and of expression was typically higher:

‘The article is informative; however, it also tries to be entertaining, by…’

‘The headline draws in the reader with its sensational, dramatic language, such as…’

Then they went away, carrying with them some higher-level thinking and expanded vocabulary. Of course, this thinking had been less ‘independent’, but they were practising at a higher level.

I use the PowerPoint slide below a lot when talking about: the relationship between feedback, modelling and questioning; the relationship between thinking and practising; the place of talk in the classroom; challenge and expectations; and even the role of silent writing. Most importantly, though, it is a reminder that the most formative feedback comes in the middle of a process, not at the end when it’s too late. The mantra that ‘pupils should always act on feedback’ is not about retrospective or remedial action, or about writing ‘I will do better’ targets; it is about folding feedback into the learning process itself.


See also Who is doing what in the classroom?

On developing precision in analytical writing, see also: What does the poem do?

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