Increasing learner engagement, assessing progress and deepening understanding have been at the forefront of educational discourse for a number of years. Educationalist Dylan Wiliam noted the detrimental effects of disengagement and developed formative assessment techniques to improve engagement and achievement (Wiliam, 1998). What emerges from his research are the importance of finding out what students have learnt, and feedback. Teachers must therefore employ these techniques to check for understanding before progressing, and ask students for feedback about their learning, as well as providing it.
In doing so, teachers evaluate the impact of their practice on students in order to increase achievement (Hattie, 2009). Hattie conducted a meta-study of more than 200 million pupils, comparing the effects of numerous variables on student achievement, and found feedback to be one of the most effective. His concern, however, is that feedback about the task is infrequent. It therefore seemed appropriate to investigate the effects of frequent student feedback to check for understanding following a task. Hattie states that learning occurs in classrooms where error is tolerated and welcomed, but that teachers must build up trust before students will admit they do not know, making this point in the school year an appropriate period for the intervention. Encouraging learners to admit they do not know and ask for help aligns with Dweck’s growth mindset theory (2012).
In Wiliam’s BBC series The Classroom Experiment (2010), coloured cups are introduced during lessons for students to use as a signal (green- I’m fine, amber- I need help, red- I need urgent help). It is crucial that support is actually provided following this mid-lesson feedback.
Bearing in mind that feedback about the task should be regular and students should provide feedback to teachers, this intervention aimed to investigate the effects of introducing interim checks during learning, as opposed to the end of a lesson. It was expected that the inquiry would establish:
- whether pupil understanding of the concept would increase as a result.
- whether pupil engagement would increase.
- the relationship between pupils’ actual performance and the outcome of the self-evaluation exercise.