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The problem being addressed in this technique

Feedback to students is now a firmly established principle in schools. It is designed to lead to improvement with students expected to respond to the feedback. Many teachers , however, will be familiar with the same feedback being offered time and again only for the students to ignore it and repeat the mistake. In 1995, I read Ruth Sutton’s pioneering book Assessment for Learning and for the first time came across her phrase ‘feedforward’; the idea that the feedback offered should be ‘fed forward’ by the students and evidenced in the subsequent work. I introduced this technique into the high school when I was Headteacher and it was remarkably successful in helping to create a ‘can do’ philosophy and raising expectations both for staff and students. It is described in the latest ‘technique of the week’ below.

Principle 7

Feedback to learners should be ongoing and can include, at different times, written, verbal, whole class, peer, and self-assessment. Teachers should find ways to ensure that such feedback is acted upon by the learners (feedforward).

Technique 156. Feedforward in workbooks

This technique involves teachers or teaching assistants (and sometimes peers) awarding an achievement sticker or stamp to reward and celebrate when a short-term target is met. When I was a headteacher, we adopted a sticker system early in the journey to success as a means of changing the culture to a ‘can-do’ philosophy. We introduced a feedback/feedforward policy. We invested in ink stamps for each teacher and asked them to grade work out of 5 for content, effort, and presentation. At the bottom of each stamp was the word ‘target’. Underneath this we asked staff to give each student a personal target a little like the ‘even better if’ (EBI) concept that emerged a few years later. It looked something like this:

This is not very different from the kinds of comments millions of teachers worldwide make when marking children’s work. The difference for us, however, was the introduction of ‘feedforward’. We introduced, school-wide, the process that the target should be fed forward by students to the top of the page on the next piece of work, as in the image above: a reminder to them and the teachers of previous feedback.

'I will try to use more evidence to support my conclusions.’ An on-target sticker with the school’s name on was then stuck in the margin by teachers when they saw the evidence that the target had been met. This proved to be a revelation. Teachers reported to me:

“They are coming up to my desk during lessons saying proudly ‘done it, can I have my sticker please.’”

I stored the sticker rolls in my office, and I was amazed how often children arrived with ‘Mr/Ms … wants more stickers please sir.’ The short-term specific target seemed to motivate students and, I believe, was the beginning of the ‘can-do’ self-image we sought. Parents began to tell us at consultation sessions how they looked to see how many stickers appeared in their books. I am convinced to this day that this simple innovation helped to change the culture to the high aspiration school and community that it became. I am not convinced that it will or should work forever - intrinsic motivation is a better bet in the long run - and it won't work e.g. in maths when the 'target' relates to a previous topic and the students are now on a new one. But, as part of a short-term strategy to raise aspirations and expectations in a long-term disadvantaged, low-achieving school, it worked well. In the right circumstance, I find it preferable to the demand that students re-do the work to show they have followed guidance, a tactic that often irritates students and adds to the teachers' marking workload. Over twenty years later it is now one of the highest achieving schools in the city. I am proud to have been involved at the beginning of its journey to excellence.

To get all the 35 techniques in Chapter 7, Principle 7, go here

To get all 157 techniques for all 7 principles go here ttps://

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