Contributed by Siti Fazila Ahmad (Curriculum Planning and Development Division 1, MOE), Marrissa Mohd Taib (Yuhua Primary School) and Marhaini Rahmat (Bukit View Secondary School), for SingTeach Issue 71.
A team comprising 20 Malay Language Curriculum Leaders partake in an Overseas Immersion Programme at the Assessment Research Centre (ARC), Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne. Supported by the Malay Language Learning and Promotion Committee (MLLPC), participants had an invaluable opportunity to visit schools and engage in professional dialogue with academicians and fellow educators. Prior to the programme, 12 school participants conducted a classroom-based research to investigate the practice of using feedback and synthesize the evidence related to the power of feedback to improve teaching and learning.
This is the story of our research journey…
Know Thy Impact
Mdm Marrissa Mohd Taib, Level Head (Malay Language) at Yuhua Primary School, focused her research on developing students reading comprehension skills. She had observed that her Primary 6 pupils were generally weak in identifying the main points and crafting answers to the questions. Although they used text annotation strategy, they struggled to provide accurate answers to most comprehension questions.
Marrissa used a formative assessment tool 3-2-1 Exit Pass to bridge the gap between what was taught and what was learnt on the application of the text annotation strategy to answer comprehension questions. She gathered pupils’ feedback to enable her to better understand the learning gap and plan subsequent lessons to address their weaknesses in reading comprehension.
Giving Students a Voice in Their Learning
To achieve the expected level of progress, a further intervention was administered to five pupils out of a class of 31. Assessment dialogue, as an intervention tool, allowed pupils to articulate their learning and the teacher to clarify misconceptions.
“Through the Exit Pass and Assessment Dialogue, I discovered that these pupils did not have a clear understanding of the self-check acronym, BITE, that I taught them,” Marissa shares.
“This resulted in incomplete self-check of their work, hence the submitted work did not meet the success criteria that was explicitly stated. Through this two-way conversation, I decided to re-teach the lesson on self-check acronym as this was necessary to meet the pupils learning needs.”
Reflective Practice on Teacher Feedback
For Mdm Marhaini Rahmat, Subject Head (Malay Language) at Bukit View Secondary School, her research studied the effectiveness of teachers’ individual e-feedback to improve students’ e-mail writing in her lower secondary class. The Student Learning Space (SLS) platform was used since the school had embarked on a one-to-one computing for students.
Reflecting on her current practice of returning assignment a week after its completion, it surfaced one pertinent issue: The feedback might not be as impactful as students need not immediately act on closing their learning gap, simply because the teacher would have moved on to another topic or language skill.
Marhaini assesses that, “This delay would also mean a delay in intervention. The impact on students’ subsequent work may also not be as effective as feedback given during the actual process of writing.”
Harnessing Affordance of Technology
“My goal is for students to receive timely formative feedback while the lesson activity is still on-going.”
–Marhaini, on what she hopes to achieve
“My goal is for students to receive timely formative feedback while the lesson activity is still on-going,” Marhaini shares. She believes that this would be impactful as students prefer feedback that are more forward-looking, related to the success of the lesson, and “just in time”, “just for me” and “about my work” and not “about me” (Hattie, 2012).
Marhaini used the Making Thinking Visible feature in SLS to segment students’ e-mail writing. She provided individual feedback on the structure and content of students’ introductory paragraph while they worked on the main content. The process of feedback progressively continued to the main content. Revisions by individual students were done simultaneously as they received the feedback. The final product submitted was the students’ revised e-mail.
Where Do I Go From Here?
Great teaching is by design, not chance; it is the moment-by-moment thinking and decisions that increase the probability of learning (Hattie, 2012). However, this was not without its challenges.
Marrissa recounted that conducting assessment dialogue was time-intensive. While conducting the assessment dialogue sessions, she had to ensure that her other 26 pupils were also engaged during the lessons.
Whilst Marrissa saw an improvement in three of her pupils whose post-test scores showed increments in the range of 5–35%, two pupils in the group did not show any significant improvement. The written and verbal feedback given by the teacher was not fully grasped and translated by the pupils in the ways that the teacher had intended.
Also because these pupils shared that they were unmotivated to learn, it called for a need to investigate further to find out if there were contributing socio-emotional factors hindering pupils’ learning. Nevertheless, Marrissa saw Assessment Dialogue as an investment in learning if it helped to bridge the gap between what was taught and what was learnt.
As for Marhaini, she noted the potential usefulness of e-feedback. “SLS allows me to document my feedback, or allows students to see their peers’ work. Students’ online work and feedback also allow teachers from the level to access past works to get a sense of their competencies.”
Marhaini also learnt to be more aware of the type of feedback she provided. Her feedback tended to centre on language usage and content structure which correlated to findings by various studies that language teachers’ feedback inclined towards corrective and directives forms. This type of feedback might be suited for lower-ability learners as they require more scaffolding but did not factor in other types of learners.
While attempting to expand her repertoire of types of feedback, Marhaini was also keen to expand her research to look into students’ understanding of the feedback given, what they interpret from this feedback and what they then use next to progress. It is looking beyond “Where am I going” and “How am I going” to “Where to next?”
“SLS allows me to document my feedback, or allows students to see their peers’ work. Students’ online work and feedback also allow teachers from the level to access past works to get a sense of their competencies.”
–Marhaini, on the potential usefulness of e-feedback
Our Parting Shot
The key takeaway for participants is that as teachers, we need to constantly evaluate the impact of our teaching through the eyes of our students, to hear how the students think. After all, impact is about making students feel that they have learned and are excited to learn.
We would like to thank MLLPC for making possible this Overseas Immersion Programme to Melbourne, Australia from 12–18 June 2019.
Hattie, J. (2012). Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact for Learning. London and New York: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group.