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Feedback Is Still a Gift

12 October 2016

I’ve written previously on the importance of feedback to all of us in improving one or more aspects of our learning.  It may relate to any aspect of our lives, from written academic feedback on an essay or test to verbal feedback on our positioning and steps on the lay up to taking a basketball shot.

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In short, feedback is identified as one of the most important mechanisms for helping students to progress in their learning.  I am in the privileged position of visiting lessons around the school each week.  If you were to join me in stepping into a classroom, you would see formative feedback in many different ways.  Teachers are engaged in learning conversations with pupils, listening to their responses to questions and offering feedback in order to clarify and consolidate their understanding. This is just one aspect of Assessment for Learning (AfL) and is an essential part of learning.  It doesn’t only occur through conversations between teachers and pupils; one of the most powerful AfL techniques involves peer assessment and feedback, through quizzes, using website tools and interactive whiteboards, or using mini-whiteboards to get instant feedback on what the pupils know and need to develop further. 

Peer assessment has proven to be a very successful way of generating discussions around a topic.  Yesterday, I watched students discuss their interpretations of a poem, firstly with their ‘study buddy’ (or shoulder partner), then a wider discussion with their face partners.  As well as helping to generate ideas, the process allowed all students to have a voice; in fact there would not have been the chance to avoid contributing!  This is a technique that teachers use to ensure engagement by all, without putting pupils ‘under the spotlight’ with a class question.  The students had been studying particular textual analysis techniques and as well as discussing their application, they were also asked to think about how useful the techniques were in helping them to discuss and dissect the poem – in other words, they were ‘thinking about thinking’.   This type of metacognition can be very powerful in helping our students to develop their own learning much further.

Almost all students received feedback before Golden Week about their performance in each of their subjects.  For our Year 11 and 13 students, as well as effort grades, they also received predicted grades for their IGCSE and IB subjects respectively.   I hope that you have found time over the course of the holiday to sit down and discuss these with your child – to celebrate success and support ways for further improvement.  Now that we are back in school, we’ll be celebrating the success of students who have shown outstanding commitment in the first five weeks of the school year, through Certificates of Endeavour and Principal’s Commendations.  Well done to all of you who have been recognised in this way.   All pupils will also spend time with their form tutors each morning over the course of the following weeks pinpointing exactly how they might be able to develop their learning in areas where they need to, they should also be having conversations with subject staff where specific advice is required. 

Year 11 and 13 students will continue with their preparation for mock examinations, which take place in November.  I’ve often talked about the need for students, teachers and parents to work together in ensuring success for our children.  Now is a very good time to support your child in planning a revision schedule (if they haven’t done so already), and to encourage them to put time aside each day towards revising topics from each of their subjects.

As well as the focus upon academic progress, this week sees the resumption of exciting experiences at BISS Puxi.  Our Year 13 students have begun their five day adventurous journey, heading to Qiandaohu , Hangzhou to begin their Gold Qualifier, the final major part of their Duke of Edinburgh International Award.  They will be trekking, cycling and kayaking as part of the experience.  I wish them every success and look forward to hearing about their adventures upon their return. 

Andrew Lancaster, Head of Secondary