The Art and Science of Feedback – Extending Teachers’ Toolbox

Sheldon College was founded in 1997 under the stewardship of Principal and CEO, Dr. Lyn Bishop, OAM. Guided by a philosophy of Love, Laughter and Learning, Dr. Bishop had a vision to open a school that would leave a legacy for children in the Redland Shire.

Located on 56 acres in a semi-rural setting, the College is committed to providing a quality education for all students in a safe, secure learning environment characterized by high standards for both staff and students in the areas of dress and appearance, behavior, individual scholarship and work habits.

Sheldon College encourages and enables students to succeed in a constantly changing world ensuring students leave equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to become self-directed learners, effective communicators and collaborators, creative thinkers, problem solvers, innovators, information and media literate, skilled in the core literacies, and possess high self-esteem.

The Challenge

The story commences with the College identifying the need to be guided by a framework and common language for ensuring quality teaching and learning. Implementing Marzano’s “Art and Science of Teaching” (2007) instructional framework, provided academic staff with research-based methodologies for providing high-quality instruction, while also taking into account the needs and abilities of individual students. Marzano describes the art and science of teaching as a mixture of expertise in a vast array of instructional strategies, combined with the profound understanding of individual students and their needs at particular points in time. Individual classroom teachers must determine which strategies to employ with the right students at the right time and make on the spot decisions about which strategies to employ. This aspect shows that a good part of effective teaching is an art. However, teachers have a toolkit of instructional strategies, and they carefully select and plan which strategy would be most effective to teach new content and skills. Therefore, there is also a science to teaching. The Art and Science of Feedback – Extending Teachers’ Toolbox Customer story Teachers working within the Marzano Instructional Framework design lessons and units of work by carefully planning and reflecting on the following design questions in their professional practice.

  • What will I do to establish and communicate learning goals, track student progress, and celebrate success?
  • What will I do to help students effectively interact with new knowledge?
  • What will I do to help students practise and deepen their understanding of new knowledge?
  • What will I do to help students generate and test hypotheses about new knowledge?
  • What will I do to engage students?
  • What will I do to establish or maintain classroom rules and procedures?
  • What will I do to recognise and acknowledge adherence and lack of adherence to classroom rules and procedures?
  • What will I do to establish and maintain effective relationships with students?
  • What will I do to communicate high expectations for all students?
  • What will I do to develop effective lessons organised in a cohesive unit?

The College identifies continuous improvement as a key organisational value, challenging academic staff to continually refine and develop their professional knowledge and practice. The College recently embarked on developing and extending the work already undertaken in previous years around learning goals and tracking student progress. This initiative broadened teacher toolkits and instructional strategies to provide highly effective feedback as part of the learning cycle, by harnessing a range of resources and digital tools.

The Solution

SheldonThe College conducted an environmental scan, implementing the evidence-based models for feedback by Hattie & Timperley (2007) and Black & Wiliam (2009), identified within AITSL’s Feedback Framework.One of the diverse range of strategies employed within the change management strategic plan was to broaden the teachers’ exposure to a range of instructional strategies and tools for providing feedback, as well as create the conditions for teachers to test, innovate and reflect on their practice. Within this process, the College created opportunities for teachers to differentiate and personalise their professional learning plans, thereby allowing professional flexibility to test and employ strategies that would be relevant and targeted across all phases of schooling within the K-12 context, and according to teacher levels of experience and expertise.

In addition, another key component of this solution was to underpin Fullan’s (2013) work within the strategic plan, whereby pedagogy becomes the driver of all learning, and technology acts as the accelerator. Through a range of professional development options, teachers were able to select personal learning pathways to develop their expertise in a range of digital resources and platforms across various sectors of the College. Under the expert leadership of Mrs. Vanessa Noonan, Head of Digital Pedagogies and Innovation, strategic advice was provided to staff, challenging them to be reflective around the appropriate selection of tools to enhance pedagogy.

Within the Primary School, teachers were encouraged to be highly reflective practitioners by being encouraged to work collaboratively with colleagues to test, deploy and innovate through a range of identified feedback strategies. Teachers were then required to analyse the impact of this strategy in improving student outcomes. One teacher within the Primary School wanted to focus her students on improving their narrative writing skills, focusing specifically on their introductions. She used the following process with amazing results. She found an engaging piece of digital content to share with students on her SMART Board® display. Students were tasked to generate and share introductions to their stories. The teacher then organised her students into small groups using SMART Learning Suite software to push content to their iPads.

The students worked in three teams and through collaboration, were able to enhance the quality of their narratives. As they shared these responses to the SMART Board, the teacher was able to provide immediate, higher-impact level-of-task and process types of feedback that could be shared with the whole group. The three teams could immediately see how the other teams were using more complex, accurate and descriptive words and quickly applied them or added them to their own sentences, learning from each other to adapt and improve the quality of their work. In a pen-and-paper world, the same activity would have taken several days or even weeks to achieve similar results.

Extending this initial body of work, teachers have been empowered to continue to broaden their effective feedback practices using the suite of SMART learning tools. Meagan Parsons, Year 1 teacher and a SMART Certified Champion, regularly employs the gamification tools across various key learning areas to gain immediate insights and feedback from students to determine their progress in learning new skills and developing understanding. By harnessing the power of this technology, she is leveraging the “art of teaching” by making on-the-spot decisions about which strategies to employ with students.

Mrs. Sophie Norton, a Year 1 teacher and SMART Certified Champion also incorporates the suite of SMART learning tools within her practice. One way she applies the Shout it Out! tool is within her instructional spelling lessons. When introducing a new spelling pattern, students “shout out” their responses to the SMART Board. This tool provides instant feedback, allowing the teacher to provide task and process specific feedback to her learners. She can also encourage her learners to develop collaboration skills to improve the quality of their responses. By harnessing technology to accelerate her pedagogical practice, she can be agile and adaptive to differentiate and target learning outcomes for her students.

Mrs. Kate Todd and Miss Julianne Herhold, part of the Year 2 team of teachers regularly use the SMART assessment tools to pre-test their students at the beginning of new concepts; one example being when working on number concepts in mathematics. Exporting this data using the spreadsheet function, teachers can immediately group students according to their results. By harnessing technology to gain immediate learning data on their students, teachers are then able to fast-track the pace of the learning process. Once the students are grouped, teachers are able to differentiate the curriculum and set personalised learning goals for their students. They then use SMART response tools for post-testing to easily generate comparable results and determine the impact of the teaching cycle.

The suite of SMART learning tools has allowed teachers at Sheldon College to generate new tools for their instructional toolboxes, thus empowering them to become highly skilled practitioners in the art and science of feedback.

Extending this initial body of work, teachers have been empowered to continue to broaden their effective feedback practices using the suite of SMART learning tools.

Posted: January 30, 2020
in Customer Stories