Feedback is a very powerful tool in the classroom and one which can have positive or negative effects depending on the type of feedback and the means by which it is delivered (Hattie and Timperley, 2007). The purpose of conducting this enquiry was to understand how verbal feedback influences pupil confidence and works to foster a growth mindset within the classroom. As a group, it was agreed that feedback was something we wanted to develop in our practice. Despite being in different sectors and subjects, the group noted that pupil confidence and resilience was an area for improvement and something we wished to strengthen and promote through learning and teaching. It was our desire to discover if verbal feedback could have a positive effect on pupil confidence.
After attending a Continued Professional Development course on Assessment is for Learning, where the importance of feedback was highlighted, verbal feedback was incorporated within an S2 Drama lesson instead of the graded feedback initially planned. It was found that discussing the performances with the pupils on a one-to-one basis was more beneficial than simply providing pupils with a mark out of a specified number and criteria. In addition, it was noted that the pupils were keen to engage in a dialogue about their performance and there was even a change in some pupils’ attitudes in class in the subsequent lessons. It is also because of this initial encounter with verbal feedback that this line of enquiry is being pursued.
The work of Paul Black and Dylan Williams (1998) highlighted that the quality of feedback provided by the teacher hugely impacts the quality of the pupil’s learning. In order to be effective and meaningful, feedback must be timely, specific, actionable and respectful (Watson, 2013). Within Drama, it was decided that pupils would be given instant verbal feedback after any group or class performances to ensure the feedback was prompt. In order to meet pupils’ needs, these have to first and foremost be uncovered and understood. Engaging in conversation with the learners was the way these needs were found out and consequently during these conversations, clearly defined, realistic and achievable targets were set based off of the dialogue.
In The Motivated School, Alan McLean (2003) talks about pupil confidence and how this is hinged on the pupil’s perception of ability. Classrooms and schools which promote the idea of ability as being something which can grow, as well as highlighting that there are multiple ways to succeed, are more likely to foster confidence in their pupils (McLean, 2003). Carol Dweck (2006) discussed two types of mindset- fixed and growth. A fixed mindset is one which views ability as something innate and which has a limit, whereas a growth mindset sees ability as something which can be enhanced with effort and effective teaching (Dweck, 2006). Through engaging in this enquiry, the goal was to ascertain which mindset the pupils possessed and to promote a growth mindset where mistakes were not to be feared, and pupils felt as though they could grow their knowledge base, success and confidence.
The aim of this enquiry was to investigate how incorporating verbal feedback in the classroom, particularly through learner conversations, impacted pupils’ confidence and development of a growth mindset.