The power of feedback
It is pleasing to see our students back at school, learning and connecting with peers and staff. The suspension of classes highlighted the important role school plays in the life of our students and community, and how getting back into the rhythm of school and learning is so important for our young people.
I would like to especially acknowledge the work of our Year 11 and Year 13 students who are preparing for and completing the GCSE and IB Diploma Mock exams. They have worked hard with their teachers to prepare the best they can for the upcoming exams.
The Mock exams are important, not so much for the test score or number that they provide, but for the feedback generated for both our students and teachers. The Mock exams are what we call ‘formative assessment’. Formative assessment provides feedback to enable the teacher and students to answer three key questions – What is to be learned? How is learning progressing? What will be learned next?
Soon after the Mock Exams, we will be speaking to our students regarding the exam results and discussing their grades. However, the more important learning conversations will be about helping our students to:
- Understand where they are at a specific point in time
- Know what they are doing well, and what they also need to work on
- Identify the key knowledge and skills needed to improve upon across the next term, as we lead up to the end of unit summative task
As importantly, the Mock exams will help our teachers to:
- Determine how and where to modify the teaching program for the term ahead to help the students
- Know what they need to go back and re-teach
- Know which students may need specific support or extension
- How much learning has taken place at that point of the unit and to give students specific and individual feedback about what they need to do next
Before the Mock exam results are handed back to students, our teachers also ‘moderate’ the grades awarded to students. This process involves teachers sharing samples of the student work and ensuring that there are high levels of consistency regarding the professional judgements made and grades awarded. This moderation process not only helps to ensure the validity and reliability of the grades, it allows teams of teachers in a specific subject to identify and discuss the specific aspects of the course that students have found to be difficult. This helps teachers take the next important step and move from ‘analysis to action’ to share and then implement a range of teaching strategies aimed to help bridge gaps in students learning. This is where the real power of the Mock exams comes to life, as teachers adjust the course content and teaching strategies to support students to take the next step in their learning progress towards the final exams.
We are seeking to support our students to be the best they can be. Providing feedback that is timely, specific and personalised is a powerful way we can support our remarkable students.
King George V