Tools for personalised feedback and assessment in primary schools

In the third of our blogs focusing on personalised learning, CLC learning and teaching consultant Peter Lillington considers the role that digital platforms and tools can play in relation to assessment and feedback, particularly by teachers to improve pupil learning.

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) published some new guidance specifically on feedback in June, including a handy poster that highlights the main recommendations.

 

In the first three columns are the first three recommendations:

  1. Lay the foundations for effective feedback, with high-quality initial teaching that includes careful formative assessment
  2. Deliver appropriately timed feedback, which focuses on moving learning forward
  3. Plan for how pupils will receive and use feedback using strategies to ensure that pupils will act on the feedback offered

In the next two columns there’s advice about written feedback and verbal feedback. Of course, written feedback can be very time consuming and, if not purposeful or timely, may have limited impact. Timely verbal feedback can be more effective. 

There has been a shift in recent times from extensive written feedback (in books, for instance), towards ‘in the moment feed forward’. In this blog from 2020 a headteacher explains her rationale for ‘banning’ marking all together.

The final column of the poster points out that introducing a feedback policy is not a one-off event, but a staged process.

How can digital tools help?

Digital tools can potentially help with both of these with a teacher able to annotate anything that can be digitised via a camera as well as capturing short or longer voice recordings, or voice notes. This might be through a separate app such as Mote, or through the features built into apps and platforms such as See-Saw, Book Creator, Padlet, Showbie, Purple Mash and J2E (most London schools have J2E available through LGfL), as well as the functions of, for example, iPadOS.

Further EEF resources on feedback describe how, when implemented well, feedback is a cost-effective way to achieve as much as +7 months progress impact for primary pupils, with slightly higher effects in mathematics and science, and with low attainers benefiting more from explicit feedback than higher (as might be anticipated).

With the EEF studies the benefits of digital feedback have been demonstrated, though the effect is typically smaller (+4 months). However, the EEF studies are not necessarily exhaustive and may not have taken into account some of the potential benefits from the past 18 months in terms of teachers' greater familiarity with platforms and tools and sometimes additional affordances offered by the tools. But it’s sensible that schools should be clear about the benefits of using digital tools, and not simply just for the sake of doing so.

Exploring Plickers

In the session we had an interesting discussion about an app that could be placed in a ‘Lo-tech and no-tech’ category: Plickers.

This is an app that has been around for some time and has gone through developments and enhancements. In essence, it assumes that only the class teacher may have a device such as an iPad. Students hold up a printed-out QR-style code (with up to four options for answers, depending on which way up they hold it). What’s useful is that the app records students’ responses, which could be useful diagnostic or formative information, with reports available to the teacher to review. 

However, the teacher will need to use their professional judgement about whether a straightforward verbal question would be equally useful. The platform has recently been developed to take into account the possibility of remote, hybrid or concurrent learning with a mobile app. Question sets can now have sound or video inserted. It’s interesting to see how the concept has developed, through work with teachers.

An interesting article from Edutopia from January 2021 highlights multiple ways for teachers to check in on learning during the course of a lesson, including ways that work well in a blended, remote or classroom setting, such as signalling, picturing, summarising, teaching. These could be digital where applicable.

And turning to types of assessment in a range of contexts and scenarios, we still find this ‘Assessment planner: purpose, format, structure, grading and feedback’ document from the FutureLearn course ‘How to teach online’ an excellent summary of considerations.

How are teachers using tools?

In our recent CPD session on digital tools for assessment and feedback, teachers provided numerous example of how they give feedback. For example: 

Examples:

Simple ways to give feedback (which can contribute to further student-teacher dialogue)

Using a tool such as google forms to check understanding across the class:

Teacher dashboard within a platform (GeoGebra) showing current student progress and task completion.

Within the session we also used tools such as Padlet and Mentimeter, for example this word cloud:

 

A ranking activity too on attendees’ priorities:

DuoLingo Schools and GeoGebra

We also had a brief practical tryout of two subject specific platforms. In DuoLingo Schools students receive live feedback from the platform in a visual, textual and audio form as they practice exercises assigned by the teacher in a virtual classroom (which could be suited to a concurrent or in class scenario, with sufficient devices available). They are also offered, by the algorithms behind the platform, further opportunities to practice what they may have difficulty with (in terms of learning vocabulary, for instance). When exercises have been completed, teachers have access to a range of data which includes ‘learning analytics’ in a simple form of time spent.

We also re-visited GeoGebra where the platform gives simple feedback to students through ticks, and the teacher has a dashboard where student progress through activity can be viewed live.

In these examples the tool is acting as a proxy for the teacher in activities that are selected and assigned by the teacher.

We also discussed an example where the platform provides corrective feedback, where all the content and the responses have been authored by teachers, and the class teacher can use the platform as a teaching tool, with a range of subjects covered (Learning by Questions). This platform also allows self-paced learning and provides a range of data for the teacher.

Don't forget about the personalised aspect of the E2L project (find out more in this blog post), where the goal is: “learning that empowers students to become active in their learning pathways and tailors their learning activities to meet their needs, abilities and interests.” Clearly timely and constructive feedback can play a role in this.

Using AI

What about when the feedback comes from an AI and not from the teacher directly - what are the issues there? Currently a number of platforms which we didn’t cover in depth in the session have this sort of function built in. 

We'll be considering some of the ethical questions around AI and adaptive technologies at our talk “Are you AI ready?” at BETT in January.

Using data from management information systems

And on a topic that’s also relevant in this context, schools have been subscribing to MIS (management information systems - sometimes the acronym IMS is seen), or platforms designed to run alongside such systems for some time and in this session we briefly acknowledged the role that these systems have had in school where they are often used to collate and analyse pupil data over a long period of time, and might be used by SLT or governors to look at school or cohort-level performance or to highlight underachieving groups. Sometimes data is pulled through automatically, sometimes it relies on manual data entry and teacher judgments. Tools that are in the hands of the teacher or under the teacher’s control or management were of more interest in the session including some real-life examples from the last year provided by the participants.

And finally if you use Book Creator, it’s worth looking at a  Book Creator free book at https://bookcreator.com/ ‘Using Book Creator for formative assessment 15 Tips For checking for understanding’ by Monica Burns (scroll down to the using Book Creator in the classroom section).

Give it a try tools

If you’ve not already checked out the tools we mentioned in the session Padlet, Plickers, Mentimeter, please do and there are many others worth exploring, including:

Book now

Summer primary school computing conference

14/06/22,
09:15
- 15:30

This event will build upon the Autumn computing conference by inviting subject leaders to reflect on their year in the role, sharing their successes and challenges. It will also introduce new ideas, tools and approaches through talks and practical activities led by members of the CLC team, with opportunities for attendees to share their own expertise and experience. Over the course of the conference activities will touch on the three main areas of the computing curriculum: computer science, digital literacy and information technology. We will also feature advice and examples illustrating the use of technology to support blended learning.

Does your school need a sustained programme in the use of digital technology to underpin your whole school aims and plans?

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Pupil workshops

Engaging, practical workshops for your class, in your school, at our Clapham centre online

Creative technology projects

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Upcoming CPD

Summer primary school computing conference
Summer primary school computing conference

This event will build upon the Autumn computing conference by inviting subject leaders to reflect on their year in the role, sharing their successes and challenges. It will also introduce new ideas, tools and approaches through talks and practical activities led by members of the CLC team, with opportunities for attendees to share their own expertise and experience. Over the course of the conference activities will touch on the three main areas of the computing curriculum: computer science, digital literacy and information technology. We will also feature advice and examples illustrating the use of technology to support blended learning.

14/06/22,
09:15
- 15:30
EYFS, KS1, KS2
Computing subject leaders, Teachers...
Creative Arts, Digital and children – CLC meets More Than Robots online
Creative Arts, Digital and children - CLC meets More Than Robots online

Combining forces for the first time, the Connected Learning Centre and More Than Robots have created a session for teachers, youth organisations, researchers and policymakers interested in the digital provision of creative arts for primary aged pupils.

Presentations

The Play Observatory - Prof. John Potter

“In their own words”: Westminster Abbey & CLC digital projects - Sian Shaw

Building (and maintaining) a city-wide primary arts curriculum to raise attainment - Kate Fellows

More to be added soon

This interactive and inclusive meet up will include inspiring examples of how technology can be used to support learning in music, visual art and drama in person and online at home drawing on our experiences as Tate Exchange associates and our partnership work with a range of cultural institutions.

This informal event is an opportunity to discuss real examples of what does/doesn’t work, meet colleagues from other sectors working on similar challenges and share useful research, news or updates

The morning will include case study presentations (details below) followed by a Q&A. There will also be an opportunity for a rapid sharing round for launches, project updates or requests for help and a short break to avoid zoom brain drain.

24/06/22,
09:30
- 11:30
KS1, KS2
Subject leaders, Teachers...

Upcoming Special projects

The News Project
25/11/21,
09:30
- 14:25
KS2

Special project in collaboration with First News Education

For a third year, building on two successful previous projects, we are once again partnering with the children’s newspaper First News, fellow member of the national Making Sense of Media and News Literacy networks. This special project with a literacy, PSHE and citizenship, as well as computing focus, highlights our specialist interest in this important aspect of digital and critical literacy.

The News Project will enable participating classes from year 5 to immerse themselves in news and current affairs using First News and the Bett award-winning First News iHUB, which will be provided free of charge during the school-based part of the project over a six week period. Under the guidance of their teacher, pupils will be supported in their development as a community of fully informed news readers. Classes will test their new critical skills and knowledge in the culminating virtual celebration event which will include a news competition and team-based critical literacy and editorial activities. After the event, schools will be able to use the resources from the day in their school.

The project will launch with an introductory CPD session for teachers to set the context, demonstrate resources and to plan for the school-based activities. 

Initial CPD session - Thursday 21st October 4pm-5.00pm. 

Project work undertaken in school - October and November.

Special event - Thursday 25th November 9.30am-2.45pm.

The Garden Museum
21/02/22,
-
KS1

The CLC is once again partnering with the Garden Museum to offer a partnership project for KS1 pupils (primarily suited to Yr2). Located next to Lambeth Palace on the bank of the Thames, the museum has an inspiring collection that provides the ideal stimulus for young learners to explore the world around them.

Pupils will use technology alongside the museum’s collection to explore the wonderful world of seeds.

  • How are they planted?
  • How do they spread?
  • What is inside them?

 The Garden Museum has a large collection of seeds and tools that pupils will engage with.

These half-day sessions will take place at the Garden Museum.

There is a limited number of dates available, so please book early to avoid disappointment.

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