EPisodes: Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age

1: Effective feedback in the classroom

August 22, 2019 Philippa Kruger and Florence Lyons Season 1 Episode 1
EPisodes: Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age
1: Effective feedback in the classroom
Chapters
EPisodes: Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age
1: Effective feedback in the classroom
Aug 22, 2019 Season 1 Episode 1
Philippa Kruger and Florence Lyons

Philippa Kruger, Global Head of Languages at Education Perfect, chats to Florence Lyons who is the Future Focused learning strategic leader and a French teacher at Matamata College, NZ. Florence is currently completing her doctorate in the field of feedback. They explore tips and latest research around feedback and provide practical implications for the classroom teacher.

Show Notes Transcript

Philippa Kruger, Global Head of Languages at Education Perfect, chats to Florence Lyons who is the Future Focused learning strategic leader and a French teacher at Matamata College, NZ. Florence is currently completing her doctorate in the field of feedback. They explore tips and latest research around feedback and provide practical implications for the classroom teacher.

Philippa Kruger:

Hello and welcome to EPisodes: Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age. My name is Philippa Kruger, and I'm the head of languages at Education Perfect. Today we're going to be talking about feedback, and I'm excited to interview Florence Lyons who is the future Focused Learning Strategic leader and French teacher at Matamata College. Florence is currently completing her doctorate in the field of feedback. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

Florence Lyons:

I'm a teacher and I've been teaching now for 15 or 16 years.

Philippa Kruger:

Wow, that's awesome.

Florence Lyons:

I don't look like it. I was trained in England and so I started my career here as a French and German teacher. Then I moved to New Zealand in 2004. Took me a while to find a job. When I finally found a job, and it was in 2006, I had to go back in France in 2005 a little bit. I started the year in 2006 as a French teacher at Matamata College. I've been working here since, so I've been teaching mainly French over the years, but I've also been teaching ICT when my timetable was not full and social studies. I've enjoyed teaching social studies a lot. What else? In 2010, I became a co-education fellow like that of the inquiry that I did in the year was very interesting and I loved working with other people.

Florence Lyons:

It was very fast paced learning, I enjoyed that. Then in 2015, I participated in research. I saw a research at Gazette, like: "do you want to be part of our research for the University of Auckland?" I'm applying. I was the only one applying for it, so I got it. During the year, actually enjoyed working with researchers and I liked what we did. It did really enhance my teaching practices, I observed other teachers in that year and I was observed a lot. So I started to think, "Well, maybe I would like to do that." Then I started a masters then in 2016, I did a masters at University of Auckland. Master's of Professional Studies, so it's a masters for teachers. I've managed to do it in a year.

Florence Lyons:

At the end of the year, I've realized, I thought I'll do a masters and then that will be the end of it, and I would have answered all the questions I had. Actually, during the year, more questions arose. "Maybe I should do a doctorate." I've applied to do a doctorate and I started to do it straight away after my masters, so I started in 2017. This time I did it in University of Waikato.

Philippa Kruger:

Excellent. So, can you tell us a bit about what your doctorate is focusing on?

Florence Lyons:

I'm looking at how digital technology may play a role when a teacher is providing feedback to students.

Philippa Kruger:

Right.

Florence Lyons:

When I did my masters I realized that feedback is very important. It's the most important thing that you can do as a teacher. I realized during my masters, that the teacher knew the importance of feedback, but it felt like they didn't know what was feedback and also they didn't know who feedback benefited the most. So everytime I were looking at technology, I have comments like, "Oh, this will be so good for the students in my accelerant class." We could see how feedback and technology could enhance students learning, but always enhance 'best' students, or [students whom] struggle the least if you want. I thought, "Let's back it up." If I'm looking at doing a doctorate, where I can do a bigger research, then I will do an investigation where we are spending some time with the teachers looking at what is feedback, or what is effective feedback.

Philippa Kruger:

Right, excellent.

Florence Lyons:

How can it improve our students' learning? Because I'm always very interested in technology, so the main area, if you want, is feedback. But, technology plays an important role because I thought that it could create a new space where relationships can be created with teachers that sometimes might be difficult in class because you teach 30 students and you don't have the time. It could create also another way of providing feedback to students.

Philippa Kruger:

What have you done to sort of conduct this research? Like what kinds of things have you been doing along the road to do this research for your masters and your doctorate?

Florence Lyons:

A lot of reading. [laughs]

Philippa Kruger:

Yes.

Florence Lyons:

A lot. A lot. A lot. I think, that before doing anything I really had to understand myself. What was feedback? I have also to understand the social dynamics, if you want, how social interaction happen in a class with us teachers being aware of them.

Philippa Kruger:

Right.

Florence Lyons:

It has highlighted some things that I didn't realize before. The struggle of some students and why we have this struggle. So I had to do a lot of reading. Then I approached a wonderful principal who allowed me to do this research in his school. I did it in a middle school. Because, I was not interested about, NCEA and results and having it more up, because it was important that relationship that students have with their teacher was not a variable.

Philippa Kruger:

Right.

Florence Lyons:

In high school, you've got a different relationship with your French teacher that you see for three years.

Philippa Kruger:

Yes. Absolutely.

Florence Lyons:

Yeah. So I wanted this relationship is stable and so it's not a variable.

Philippa Kruger:

Right.

Florence Lyons:

I've approach the principal, then we found two teachers willing to participate and they were very young teachers. I mean young and newly qualified teachers. First, we spent a workshop together on what is feedback.

Philippa Kruger:

Okay.

Florence Lyons:

We created rubrics and we've looked at ... I was interested in persuasive writing. The whole investigation is about persuasive writing. After the workshop, we started teaching students on how to do persuasive writing using rubrics and also using a structure. You know, how to build an argument and a counter argument in your essay. So, students had to write a letter to the Prime Minister about the fact that they wanted Matariki to be a public holiday. They had to write that. Then teachers gave feedback. They gave feedback; the school is using Google Docs - giving feedback using Google Docs. First, on Google Docs, the kids write and on the right-hand-side, teachers gave written feedback. On the second round of feedback, they gave audio feedback. Audio recorded feedback. Then again, written feedback.

Philippa Kruger:

How did they give the audio feedback, just out of interest?

Florence Lyons:

Recording themselves.

Philippa Kruger:

Right. So it's separate from the Google Doc?

Florence Lyons:

Kind of, but then there was a link to it.

Philippa Kruger:

Okay, cool. Yup.

Florence Lyons:

Then the second, so then we did another workshop where we looked at the data from the students, what the students said. We did a second piece of writing, and this time it was a letter about why we should ban plastic bags in New Zealand. It was in the news then, you know.

Philippa Kruger:

Yes. Yeah. Yeah.

Florence Lyons:

We had to write a persuasive writing piece of essay again here. So they did and again, the teachers placed feedback. Written feedback. Then at the end, I interviewed the teachers together. I interviewed the students as a focus group. The teachers were working in a double classroom, so we had 63 students out of the 63 students, 38 students agreed to take part in the research. From those 38 students, we took 10 target students. Those target students were, some were very comfortable in writing. Some were definitely, not comfortable with writing and somewhere in the middle.

Philippa Kruger:

Right.

Florence Lyons:

We wanted to see what was the change in their achievement.

Philippa Kruger:

Excellent. Well, that's really interesting.

Florence Lyons:

Actually, that's what I did for a year.

Philippa Kruger:

Wow, that's fascinating. This is probably a big question, what did the results show?

Florence Lyons:

Several things, so some things that I was expecting. You know, like feedback makes a huge difference.

Philippa Kruger:

Yes. Yeah.

Florence Lyons:

I was expecting that, so I confirmed it. I confirmed it for a year 8 classes in just perceived writing. Yes, it does work. Also, little findings just like the students love to doing their on Google Docs.

Philippa Kruger:

Yeah.

Florence Lyons:

Students and teachers. The students said that it was much easier for them to redraft their work, much more than writing in their books.

Philippa Kruger:

Yup.

Florence Lyons:

That's what the teachers commented too. We see that they have some students doing work that they usually do not do.

Philippa Kruger:

Right.

Florence Lyons:

More quality and more quantity. The teacher then found it easy because then if they had more writing then they had more possibility to give feedback, you know what I mean?

Philippa Kruger:

Yeah.

Florence Lyons:

That was a big finding. Also, teachers found that it was very important to give time for students in class to change their work according to the feedback that they have received.

Philippa Kruger:

Right. Yeah, I think that's a key thing, isn't it?

Florence Lyons:

Yeah. This again, I was not surprised. But that emphasis that, that came again. Also, but for me the main finding was that students who were struggling with writing, have managed to finally understand what the feedback meant when it was given on audio.

Philippa Kruger:

How interesting. I was going to ask that. What did you find regards to the written and the audio?

Florence Lyons:

Yeah.

Philippa Kruger:

Wow, that's fascinating. The students themselves found that was the easiest to understand?

Florence Lyons:

Not all students. After that, this was very interesting - so the students who were, if you want, very good at writing, so felt very comfortable with writing preferred written based feedback. Because it was faster to read, so therefore faster to act upon. They didn't want to have to listen to the whole feedback, you know what I mean? "My eye is faster. It's much faster than listening for the minute or so that the teacher is talking. It's too long. I don't like it." However, the kids who struggled with writing say to me, after receiving audio feedback, they said, "Finally, now I understand what it is all about."

Philippa Kruger:

Right. How interesting.

Florence Lyons:

They said, "When I read what the teacher wrote, in my head, sometimes it sounds very different."

Philippa Kruger:

Right.

Florence Lyons:

Although they could decipher the words, so then, when I said to them, "Can you read the feedback?" They said, "Oh yeah, yeah. I can." They could read it out loud, but they did not understand what it meant.

Philippa Kruger:

Right. Gosh, that's really, really interesting.

Florence Lyons:

The teacher was spending time giving written feedback when the kids could not understand it. Now when it was given as an audio and they said as well, that it allowed them to redraft their work while they were listening to the audio.

Philippa Kruger:

Okay. That's really interesting, isn't it? Gosh. Have you had the chance to sort of take the findings from your research and look at the implications for the second language classroom? And the audio feedback in the second language for learners, students learning French?

Florence Lyons:

I mean I've done it but just in my class. I haven't ...

Philippa Kruger:

Right.

Florence Lyons:

I'm still writing my findings now do you know, I mean [crosstalk 00:13:54] chapter. Finally, in the Easter holidays, I have presented my findings to a conference called 'Assessment Matters' in Hamilton. There was one I think in Wellington or Christchurch, something like that.

Philippa Kruger:

Yes, it sounds familiar.

Florence Lyons:

It was in front of teachers, but they were mainly primary school teachers. I had teachers at the end of my presentation, would come and say, "Oh!". They were very happy, because now they could see the use especially for special needs students who struggled a little bit with literacy or they've got learning difficulties.

Philippa Kruger:

Yeah. Would you recommend from your research that, should teachers be going through the process of giving the written feedback and the verbal feedback to all students so students can pick and choose which is best for them? Or should teachers choose which, or sort of talk with the students about how they're best receiving the feedback? What would be your recommendations for teachers in the classroom listening to this?

Florence Lyons:

Firstly, it depends how many kids you've got.

Philippa Kruger:

Sure, yeah. Sure.

Florence Lyons:

This is what the teachers who participated in my research said; they thought that giving audio feedback was time consuming. This was very interesting actually. They said that they felt, given that they could give written feedback while watching TV or listening to music. But they could not do it while giving audio feedback, obviously -

Philippa Kruger:

Sure, sure.

Florence Lyons:

- So, they felt that it was taking their time, their personal time. Most felt that they had to think a lot about what they're going to say, how they are going to say it. Sometimes we were mumbling or they realize that they made a mistake so they had to restart all over again. On the contrary, they said that when they write, they make a mistake, you know, they press the backspace.

Philippa Kruger:

It doesn't matter. Yeah. Sure.

Florence Lyons:

But, they could see the use of the audio feedback. They said that the next year, the year after my research, that they will use it to accelerate students who were struggling.

Philippa Kruger:

Sure.

Florence Lyons:

As a teacher. What you would do, you will look at who needs the feedback the most and that's what in the research, so they prioritize the kids.

Philippa Kruger:

Sure.

Florence Lyons:

The kids, if you want, with the lower achievement in whatever. So, here it was writing but it could be then in speaking or whatever the skills you are practising. The kids who achieved the lowest then should receive the feedback first.

Philippa Kruger:

Right.

Florence Lyons:

Then your middle kids and then your top kids. Maybe the kids who are not struggling at all could get just written feedback.

Philippa Kruger:

Sure. No, that makes sense. Definitely. I understand where they're coming from with audio feedback tape being more time consuming and having to really think about it a lot before you record. That makes a lot of sense. I think that's really, really interesting. If you were to sort of summarize your research, into a couple of top tips for teachers if they were listening to this and then obviously the audio versus the written feedback, it's really interesting. But, if you were to sort of summarize maybe two top tips for teachers on feedback, what would be your top advice for teachers wanting to sort of improve their feedback process?

Florence Lyons:

I know it sounds, I mean it's not a tip, but really knowing what effective feedback is. Because it feels very, it seems that it's very easy.

Philippa Kruger:

Sure.

Florence Lyons:

I've been now reading extensively about feedback for three years. Yeah, three years. Every time I read something I realize how much actually I don't know.

Philippa Kruger:

Wow.

Florence Lyons:

I told my supervisor, I said, "Oh my God, I feel like I still don't know anything." and Shan said, "I've been researching about feedback for 30 years and I still don't know."

Philippa Kruger:

Right.

Florence Lyons:

So, you realize the importance and the depth of feedback.

Philippa Kruger:

Yes.

Florence Lyons:

I think that we do not give feedback to students, and we think that we give feedback by giving a grade or by saying, "good job".

Philippa Kruger:

Yes, I'm guilty of that.

Florence Lyons:

Yeah, like a little sticker on the side or you know, tap on the shoulder or a smiley face or whatever, but if there's no feedback that does not help me.

Philippa Kruger:

Yeah. If you were to, I'll rephrase my other question then to make it maybe a bit even harder considering what you've just said, but if you were to say, "Okay, here's some top tips for what is effective feedback?" Would that be too hard?

Florence Lyons:

Yeah, I think it would be too hard for me, I mean if I start I would never finish.

Philippa Kruger:

Yeah, okay.

Florence Lyons:

The longest forecast in the world. Effective feedback needs to happen while the kids are working on it.

Philippa Kruger:

Okay.

Florence Lyons:

Whatever the other kids are doing, and you need to give the feedback then.

Philippa Kruger:

So it's real-time?

Florence Lyons:

Yeah, not when the task has been finished.

Philippa Kruger:

Okay.

Florence Lyons:

Also, I think it starts also before the kids need to know what they are going to be assessed on. I don't mean that you tell them, you know, what the test is all about. It's not that. It's that, what an excellence paper or an excellence essay looks like. What a merit essay looks like, or what an acheived [essay looks like], whatever the curriculum level you use. Whatever you are doing.

Philippa Kruger:

Yeah, sure.

Florence Lyons:

You should example. You also give them rubric and you make it explicit. We might already do that. I don't know. Maybe teachers give rubrics to their students, like their assessment schedule in NCEA, how many teachers actually spent time to unpack that with their students?

Philippa Kruger:

For sure. The feedback should reflect those rubrics and reflect those samples?

Florence Lyons:

Exactly, so they work. You don't place a feedback on something that you haven't told the kids that you are going to give them feedback on.

Philippa Kruger:

Okay.

Florence Lyons:

You've got the rubric, you've got your feedback so the kids know. And also it has to be explicit. Are you sure that you used ... Every single student has understood the rubrics, the language that you use, what are they going to do? Because that language that we use is quite complex.

Philippa Kruger:

Right.

Florence Lyons:

It also has to be personalized, so you cannot just say to the whole class, "this is what you should do". You know what I mean? "This is what you've done. This is how you can improve". Because, is it me as well? Like, is it me as a student in the class? If you've got 30 kids, you've got 30 kids working at different levels.

Philippa Kruger:

That's right.

Florence Lyons:

The feedback needs to be personalized. It also needs to be explicit.

Philippa Kruger:

Okay.

Florence Lyons:

Can the kids understand what you are telling them? And you cannot just say, "I gave a feedback," and then poof, that's it. It's done. It's in a continuous loop. The kids, you give feedback, the kids are working on it according to your feedback. Then you give another feedback and then you give another feedback and then you give another feedback. It doesn't mean doing the work for them, not at all. In your feedback, you tell you need to tell the kids what they've done well, what they haven't, where they need to improve, but most importantly how they need to improve. Let's pick a stupid example here. For example, we haven't written a conclusion to your essay, and I said, "Well, your essay is very good, you have done, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah very well. Now you haven't done your conclusion. That's what you need to do now."

Philippa Kruger:

Right, right.

Florence Lyons:

Know how to write a conclusion? Maybe you don't. Maybe that's why you haven't written a conclusion, you know, so how are you going to improve? How is a conclusion or you know, how do you build a counter argument in this little head that everything. That's where the difference is in the feedback.

Philippa Kruger:

Yeah, that's really interesting that certainly makes me reflect on when I was teaching and thinking, "Gosh, I really don't think I did all of that." Any of that even, I was very guilty of doing that "Great work." Or, "Nice writing,". You're thinking that you're being really helpful to the students but probably not... Not really. I think that's, that's really, really helpful.

Florence Lyons:

But it's because we teach so many students.

Philippa Kruger:

That's right. Yeah.

Florence Lyons:

We can see what of everyone by saying, "Oh, you know, it doesn't matter to teach 30 kids," but it does matter in a sense that I don't have the time to give proper feedback to 30 students." That's why maybe doing the audio for some of the kids could be faster.

Philippa Kruger:

Yeah. Do you think using like conferencing as a feedback tool can be helpful? Sorry, I just say it's something else into the works there.

Florence Lyons:

I can give you my opinion as a teacher, but I cannot give you my opinion as a researcher because ... [crosstalk 00:23:18].

Philippa Kruger:

Right, for sure.

Florence Lyons:

... I haven't read anything on that.

Philippa Kruger:

Yeah.

Florence Lyons:

My fear would be that conferencing is very good, but what can you take away from it? You would conference with the kids who you give a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot. Then they go back to their seats.

Philippa Kruger:

Right.

Florence Lyons:

How can they come back to what you've said?

Philippa Kruger:

Right. There needs to be some way of recording it.

Florence Lyons:

Yeah. Then if you conference with the students in front of a computer and that actually writes for you what you are saying or record it, then the students can go back and read because the importance of the feedback, as well, is to, to keep feedback for your next task.

Philippa Kruger:

Yes.

Florence Lyons:

You know how to [crosstalk 00:24:03] ... Now conferencing is like, "Poof." It's like if we go to a PD somewhere and you don't take a note. Then it's gone. I can't remember what I watched last night on TV because I didn't take a note.

Philippa Kruger:

That makes a lot of sense. No, I think that's, I think that's been really, really helpful and I'm hoping that teachers who are listening to this will take away a lot from that. I know I've learned a lot with thinking about the audio versus the written feedback and how that's very insightful and how it can be for different learners, it's really that they have very different value and also just the, what really is effective feedback. It's been really helpful to kind of hear you talk about that and the importance of kind of having those instructions and rubrics and samples and then the feedback relating to those and being really explicit I think is really important. And it's really great to hear you talk about that and see your passion about it as well. It's fantastic. So thank you so much for talking to me today. It's been really awesome to hear about your research and really interesting and I hope that we can talk to you again soon about something else that's awesome that you're doing in your classroom.

Florence Lyons:

Yeah, hopefully.

Philippa Kruger:

Yeah. Great. Well, thank you.

Florence Lyons:

Thank you.

Philippa Kruger:

I have reflected on my conversation with Florence. My key takeaway points were the benefits of verbal feedback for students who are having difficulty, as well as the benefits of giving real time feedback while the students are working on a task, rather than when the task is finished. How do you provide feedback in the classroom? Come and share your thoughts in our LinkedIn group; Teaching and Learning in a Digital Age. A collaborative hub to share findings and engage in conversations about teaching and learning. I'll pop the link in the description. We would love to hear your thoughts.