Effective conversations about learning

To be graded outstanding under the new Common Inspection Framework,

marking and constructive feedback from staff are frequent and of a consistent quality, leading to high levels of engagement and interest……..Advice, guidance and support motivate learners to secure the best possible opportunities for success in their learning and progression.

Inspectors evaluate the extent to which learners understand how to improve as a result of frequent, detailed and accurate feedback from staff following assessment of their learning………They evaluate learners’ understanding of what they have to do to improve their skills and knowledge, which is checked and reflected in subsequent tasks and activities”

The dialogue with learners about the learning process needs to be an ongoing one, grounded in assessment-based feedback and discussion of ways to learn. There is a need to reflect on what learners are learning (content) and how they are learning (process), as well as how well they are learning (criteria, standards, grading)

Research on feedback suggests that the kind of feedback given is a key factor in how well and how quickly students can improve. Feedback that focuses on Medals and Missions can help learners to grasp the specifics of where they are progressing and what they need to do in order to improve further. Teachers can embed this into their practice in the ways outlined below.

1. At the start of a task, make sure you outline what success looks like in that task, clarify criteria, skills involved etc.. This helps students see what they are aiming for.

2. During lessons, make specific comments on areas of progress or success and areas for development during tasks. This feedback should be directed to individuals. One teacher I know keeps a pad of post-it notes in her bag and in group activities takes time to note specific feedback for individuals and hand out the slips during the lesson. The feedback may comment on how well the student is participating in turn taking, their accuracy in answering, the improvement in their spelling of key words etc. It’s way more specific and useful than saying “You did well in that task“. It breaks down what they have achieved and identifies areas for future improvement in concrete ways that focus on the performance and not the person. It is task-centred not ego-centred feedback, as Geoff Petty points out. His website gives more ideas on this area plus useful signposting to key research so click here for the link.

3. On written work, give Medal and Mission comments and keep them precise and constructive. Include comments on the style and accuracy of language as well as the content and organisation of the text. Avoid writing Grade B- Well done! on a piece of work as it gives the student nowhere useful to go; it’s easy to ignore and doesn’t stimulate reflection or action.

4. Review your SoW and build in slots for discussing how students are learning. Model different note-taking methods then discuss their benefits with learners. Encourage them to take notes during a PP presentation and then critically evaluate them. Discuss HOW people use the Internet for research purposes. Even 15 minutes spent on such topics regularly can influence the way students conceptualize and develop their learning skills. Some teachers build such activities into the first weeks of the course as a mini study skills induction of sorts and then come back to it in tutorials as a self-assessment and action planning process.

For information about training on classroom approaches to assessment, please click here:


This entry was posted in Advanced Practitioners, Assessment methods, Common Inspection Framework, CPD for Teachers, Differentiation, FE, Medals and Missions, Stretch and challenge, Teaching and learning and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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