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Balancing verbal feedback against workload

After searching ‘teacher workload’ on the news section in preparation for this post it struck me how many articles are being written about teacher workload and also how to try and manage/reduce it. This linked back to the aims of our research project into if and how verbal feedback can help to make staff workload manageable whilst also strengthening dialogue between teacher and students. Also, we are looking at the extent to which this is effective when compared to written marking.

Hannah and I have been working on this project for nearly a year now and over the course of this time our ideas have changed based off our own experiences and from the CTSN sessions. I have found myself more conscious of when I am providing verbal feedback to my classes and the amount of which am I providing to each individual student. I have found verbal feedback especially effective as a source of opening up conversations with GCSE students when feeding back the results from their assessments or mock exams. It also opens up the opportunity for them to ask more questions and for me to go into more specific needs for individuals.

One of the major barriers that we have identified is the time that it takes to implement ‘effective’ verbal feedback in lessons. Firstly, it normally takes me a lesson or a lesson and a half to feedback a whole set of GCSE papers to students. Even then, this is only around one and a half to two minutes per student. However, the students seem to find this beneficial. For shorter assessments, I have been using exemplar student work or model answers to help aid whole-class verbal feedback. I have also been using data more in prioritising students who I believe would benefit from a more in-depth conversation about their assessment and what they have done/how to improve.

I have also been using coded marking alongside verbal feedback. This is a departmental idea and works well alongside verbal feedback. It is an idea that is constantly changing based off the common mistakes that appear in students’ work and these feedback slides can easily be altered based on an individual class set. This, alongside verbal feedback, has helped in working towards our original aim of providing effective feedback whilst reducing staff workload. The trial of 100% verbal feedback vs. a combination of coded marking and verbal feedback suggests to me that the latter is more time-efficient.

Cavanaugh and Song, 2014: This piece of research fits with the idea that feedback is the most time consuming task but also the most beneficial. This study suggests that teachers had mixed feelings about using verbal feedback in lessons. Students were more receptive. This links to the idea that the students at Swavesey preferred a mixture of verbal and also ‘data drop’. The paper also suggests that written feedback tends to be more personable than verbal feedback – something that I have tried to work against. However, this has meant that there are very few opportunities for this to happen (as I have only been able to do this with GCSE classes over two hours).

Nadeem, 2015: This research looks at the problems with verbal feedback involving students forgetting what had been mentioned to them. This is something I have yet to test, however, based on recent mock results, there has been a mixture of those who have taken on board my comments and those who have not. The author also found that verbal feedback had to be ‘stripped back’ due to time constraints. Nadeem found that students self-evaluated that they could not always remember verbal feedback. Students in this study also suggested that written comments were far more easier to recall than verbal feedback. With this in mind, I adopted a hybrid approach of verbal and coded marking. I would then tailor my attention to whole-class feedback and individual feedback to those students who needed it the most (based of assessment performance).

Mark Langton

Geography Department

Swavesey Village College

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