The dialogue with learners about the learning process needs to be an ongoing one, grounded in criteria-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, assessors and tutors 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 and what good actually looks like.
2. During sessions or meetings, make specific comments on areas of progress or success and areas for development during tasks. This feedback should be personalised for individuals as much as possible. One teacher I know keeps a pad of post-it notes in her bag and in workshop or classroom tasks takes time to note specific feedback for individuals and hand out the slips during the session. 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 or their use of a particular vocational skill. 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 assessments, 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/organisation of the text and the assessment criteria. Avoid writing simple, generalised comments such as 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. Make sure your feedback triggers feed forward target setting by or with the learner, so that they are clear on the steps to do better next time and have engaged with your feedback.
4. Review your learning programme and build in slots for discussing how learners are learning. Model different note-taking methods then discuss their benefits with learners. Encourage them to take notes during a meeting/PP presentation and then critically evaluate them. Discuss HOW people use the internet for research purposes. Even 15 minutes spent on such topics on a regular basis can influence the way learners conceptualize and develop their learning skills. Some teachers/assessors/tutors build such activities into the first weeks of the programme as a mini study skills induction of sorts and then come back to it in reviews or visits as part of a self-assessment and action planning process.