Feedback and Communication

Based on original image by Ben Kolde on Unsplash

Decades of education research support the idea that by teaching less and providing more feedback we can produce greater learning.

Grant Wiggins

Educators have become increasingly conscious of the importance of feedback and communication in the teaching and learning process. This becomes even more important in a hybrid environment where learners/ākonga  and teachers may be physically separated for part of the experience. During the lockdown period many students reporting feeling isolated or left to deal with things on their own as a result of a lack of communication or feedback.

Providing feedback means giving students an explanation of what they are doing correctly AND incorrectly, with the focus of the feedback on what the students is doing right. It is most productive to a student’s learning when they are provided with an explanation as to what is accurate and inaccurate about their work.

Some of the successful strategies used by schools and educations that were identified through the COVID research include:

  • Deliberately using positive language that focuses on the successes of lockdown and engagement rather than the challenges.
  • Avoiding phrases which communicate a sense of deficit in learning – for example, not talking about ‘lost learning’ or ‘catching up’ on learning ‘missed’.
  • Teachers talking about and showing value for the richness of learnings during lockdown and taking students from where they currently are.
  • Teachers communicating their belief in students and high expectations of their success.
  • Reassuring students and families of their safety at school through health and safety protocols.
  • Ensuring teachers are all on the same page through regular opportunities for sharing and professional collaboration.

In a hybrid environment this communication must involve all stakeholders (other teachers, support staff, parents/whānau) to ensure there is coherence and continuity in the learning process. In addition, the communications should be wider than simply about the learning, and include a focus on the learner’s wellbeing and contextual issues affecting participation as well.

Understanding yourself as part of a collaborative effort as an educator is really important in all of this. Relationships thrive when there is good communication and focused and helpful feedback.

Collaboration is the conversational and connected aspects of online learning as technology allows a ‘high level of networking’. Collaboration also refers to sharing and accessing an array of content, artefacts and information. These concepts are underpinned using time and space, because the usual constraints of time and space are transcended as learning through devices is no longer bound in physical spaces and timetables.  (Yates, Starkey, Egerton and  Flueggan, 2020)

Planning for and maintaining a process of regular communications with all stakeholders adds to the transparency of a hybrid environment, reduces the anxiety of learners/ākonga and empowers everyone involved with a sense of being ‘on the same page’ with a clear direction of travel together.

Questions you could use to help identify the practices in your context that address equity include:

  • What approaches do you use to provide feedback to learners/ākonga  about their learning?
  • Who provides this feedback?
  • How is feedback built into the design of your learning experience?
  • What communication channels do you use to keep learners/ākonga  and parents/whānau informed and engaged? Are these two-way communications?
  • How are these channels used? For what purposes? Who is able to initiate communications on them?

This post is one of a series of ten being published on this blog that are taken from the document “Codifying Teacher Practice”. This document has been written to provide educators with some guidance on how to approach the challenge of shifting their pedagogical approach as they embrace hybrid learning and includes templates and activity to help educators and leaders explore this in their own context. This paper follows two previous thought pieces relating to hybrid learning, both of which can be found on the FutureMakers website. If you’d like to receive an advance copy of this paper please email derek@futuremakers to have one emailed to you.

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