Sunday, 8 March 2015

#ililc5 Teaching my dog to whistle

This is the second of the 2 sessions I presented at #ililc5 at Southampton University last weekend.

Again, my posting the powerpoint wouldn't be much good without the spiel so I've decided to reproduce as best I can everything I talked about in that session.

Here goes...

Teaching my dog to whistle

Tips and ideas for giving feedback and promoting independence

The title for this session comes from a joke made by an Ofsted inspector, Geoff Hancock.

A child brags to a friend, 
"I just taught my dog to whistle."
"Wow!" says the other, "Let's hear!" 
"Oh, he can't whistle," replies the first. 
"Why not? I thought you said you taught him!" 
"I did! He just didn't learn it."

OK, I never said it was funny...

So then I asked a series of questions:

  • How can you really tell if students understand?
  • How can you tell they are ready to move on?
  • Is it worth persevering?
  • Do we need to stick to the Scheme of Work? 
  • Is it personal?*
* The Journal of Educational Psychology says "yes" in a recent article called:   Do converging student/teacher personality traits affect outcomes of teacher assessments?

Then I asked the attendees if I were to show them how to do something and give them simple instructions, should they be able to do it? 

They (without really thinking) said, "yes" and so I demonstrate juggling with three Creme Eggs.

I then gave them the following instructions on how to juggle:
Start with 2 eggs in one hand and one in the other. 
Throw one of the eggs in the hand with 2 eggs into the air in a kind of arc.
Then just before catching the egg with the other hand throw the egg currently in that hand into the air.
Before catching that egg in the other hand, throw the egg which is in that hand in the air.
Continue the process.

I now have two volunteers throwing Creme Eggs in all directions while the those assembled look on, laughing. Because that's what you should do when someone can't do something. Laugh at them.

Obviously, the point of the exercise was to show that this could probably have been achieved more successfully with time and practice but also that some people just can't juggle.

From this we moved on to progress over time and feedback.

The feedback sticker below is commercially available and is, in my opinion, totally useless.
It gives the student no feedback at all. 

Why was the work excellent? 
Other than the fact that there is a red tick in the Excellent box?
No, I have no idea either.

Then we come on to this stamp:
I have worked with people who swear by these.
"It shows that I've given oral feedback." 
No, it doesn't.
Why do we give feedback?
Who is it for? 
If you use one of these stamps students must be able to, and be given the opportunity to, respond to it. 
Other wise you may just as well use this stamp....
Next I shared Grant Wiggins' Seven keys to effective feedback.

Feedback must be:

1) Goal referenced
2) Tangible and transparent
3) Actionable
4) User friendly
5) Timely
6) Ongoing
7) Consistent 

Then I went through 11 different types of effective feedback which could have maximum impact and still save time on marking.
1) Traditional marking
This is the red pen, lots of crossing out, strange codes in the margin, type of feedback so favoured by teachers when I was at school (and still favoured by many School Managers!)
It confuses students and can demotivate them, too. (The ones who bother to read it, that is.) 
They can't see beyond the red ink.
Personally, I would avoid this like the plague.

2) The PEN method
PRAISE - the student's strengths
ERROR - point out areas to be developed
NEXT STEPS - suggest a way to improve

3) Highlighting
I love this one (and so does Chris Harte. Read his rainbow assessment blog post.) It involves highlighting where a child has achieved the set objectives and allows them to see clearly which are the good bits in their work, so they can use them again and again.

4) Medal and Mission
This is all a bit "Jim Phelps" for me. It involves identifying were objectives were met by giving "medals" in the form of stamps, stickers, etc and suggesting a "mission" to be accepted by the student to improve. Works well with demotivated boys, apparently.

5) Smile and a Star
Identical to medals and missions only for the less FBI-minded students. Smiles for achievement and a star to reach for.

6) PIE method
PRAISE where objectives are met
IMPROVEMENT suggestions
ENCOURAGE students to try new ideas

7) The Praise Sandwich
This is mainly used in industry during staff appraisals. It involves placing a development point between 2 slices of praise. (You need to be careful with this one and make sure that the layers of the sandwich are in equal proportion. I found a great article about this called "why the sandwich feedback technique is ineffective" but some of my colleagues love it.)

8) 2 Stars and a Wish
For this method, indicate 2 areas where learning objectives have been met, and use the wish to suggest an area for improvement. (Again, I don't like this, maybe because I don't feel it relevant to modern languages, or maybe it just seems a bit "too girly".)

9) A Bubble and a Box
This technique involves identifying and drawing a box around evidence of where objectives have been met and putting a recommendation for developments or improvements in a bubble.

10) Comment only marking
This involves writing comments based on success criteria having been met, and questions to consider for future improvements.

11) Using stickers
The stickers method is fairly new to me but it's the one I use most at the moment. My school is big on this. Instead of spending a long time writing comments we use these:

They are used school wide and the students know that they are required to respond to any teacher comments on how they can improve and that they are also required to give examples of how they can improve.

Student self and peer assessment came next.

Many teachers don't trust their students to mark their own, or their partner's work. 
I find this quite disturbing that, say a listening exercise which could be marked in 30 seconds becomes an hour long chore one evening when you could be doing something else. 
Like having a life. 
Watching the flowers grow. 
Walking the dog. 
Socialising. Meeting new people. Meeting old people. Meeting new, old people.
Drinking coffee. 
Just not doing school work.

I often get students to write down how they feel about an activitiy. 
A smiley drawn in the margin by a student can often help my planning more than 2 hours of marking.

For reading or listening tasks, I often get the students to estimate how many they'll get right.
Then I'll ask them:

Did you estimate correctly?


Why not?

What can you do to improve?

This builds confidence and is a perfect self assessment tool.

I'll also ask them:

Why are we doing this?

How do you know you're correct?

Summarise what you've learned.

Explain it to a friend.

Test a friend.

Feedback to your group.

I shared this quote:

The final part of my session was about promoting independence.

(Some of these points were also made by Rachel Smith in her Kicking the dependence habit session. So they must be good!)

Teach students to use a dictionary. Properly. Assume nothing.

Give them preparation homework. Expect them to know the vocab for next lesson rather than you teaching it.

Make resources available to students. If students are ready to move on, point them to the next topic on your VLE. Don't ever tell them "you can't say that....". Let them have a go.

Make your tasks thought provoking:
Give them the answers, get them to write the questions. 
Give them "marking" tasks. 

Well, that's pretty much everything I know about feedback and independence.

I hope some of it made some sense.


Unknown said...

Awesome post (even if I do like 2 stars and a wish). We have a school wide policy on highlighting, but also on the fact that the teacher should never, if possible, be the first assessor. This means that actually students are more involved in the actual assessment process and understanding what great work and useful feedback look like (as well as how to form a SMART target- an ever-ongoing piece of work!). This also has the fantastic impact of cutting down on teacher workload, as most of the time, with practice, students are now becoming quite accurate in their feedback.

Dom said...

Thanks for reading and the comment, Chris. Cutting workload is something my school is really big on. The staff are really valued :-)