Formative assessment and feedback to learners

Feedback to pupils is at the heart of successful teaching, but research suggests that how this is given is key to whether it is effective. Steve Higgins explains

I WORK CLOSELY WITH TEACHERS and am passionate about supporting them with research evidence that is helpful and practical for their teaching. Recently I have been undertaking a review of the evidence about what works for learners for the Sutton Trust, a UK charity which aims to improve educational opportunities for young people from non-privileged backgrounds and to increase social mobility. One of the questions that teachers have frequently asked me for the review, is about what works in terms of formative assessment and feedback to pupils.

What we know
● Feedback is central to the teaching and learning process and keeps it on track.
● It closes the loop between Assessment for Learning and formative assessment by enabling action by the teacher and/ or learner.
● Letting pupils know when they get things right, and why they are correct is even more important than pointing out mistakes or errors.
● Specific feedback is more useful than general, particularly where this relates to previous work pupils have done.
● Praise should be specific to what the pupil has done.
● Feedback should encourage and not demoralise learners.

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June 2011