Professional Learning: A Focus on Feedback

Mrs Jo Butterworth 

Staff engagement in professional learning at St Aidan’s continues to be a priority for the ongoing development of individual professional growth and the opportunity to collaborate about, challenge and create shared teaching practices. During the staff professional learning days at the beginning of this term, teachers engaged in a professional learning day focused on establishing learner-centred feedback practices. Contemporary views of effective feedback practice emphasise the need for students to be taught how to play an active role in seeking, providing and using feedback to improve their learning outcomes (Brooks et al., 2021). This important shift in recognising the active role of the student in the learning and feedback process will be the focus of professional learning in 2021.

When teachers provide feedback, the aim is to close or reduce the gap between students’ learning goals and the quality of their performance. Over time, studies of the feedback process have recognised that enabling students to actively engage in dialogue with their teacher about the quality of their work is central to their success. However, the use of feedback to improve performance still remains a challenge for many secondary students, includingSt Aidan’s students, and our teachers are committed to exploring, experimenting with and evaluating feedback strategies.

Heads of Faculty play a central role in facilitating the implementation, experimentation and evaluation of feedback practices. Specific professional learning activities focus on:

  • Making sense of assessment criteria

  • Learning how to engage students in dialogue about the quality of their work

  • Refining our understanding of effective modelling practices

  • Learning how to create peer assessment opportunities.

The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) recognises the important role of feedback in the learning process. AITSL have drawn on the work of Hattie and Timperley (2007) who suggested that for students to be able to respond to feedback than the learning environment needs to be guided by three questions:

  • Where am I going? (What are the goals?)

  • How am I going? (What progress is being made toward the goal?)

  • Where to next? (What activities do I need to do now to make better progress?)

These questions will guide St Aidan’s professional learning approach to building a feedback culture that values the creation of a learner-centred environment. In turn, this will develop students’ capacity to become self-regulated learners, able to tackle complex understandings across subject areas and beyond school.