Atomic essay #17 - some questions before reading about feedback

I'm currently embarking on a big burst of reading to prepare for one of my Chartered College of Teaching Exams, on the topic of within-lesson feedback.

Atomic essay #17 - some questions before reading about feedback
Photo by Jon Tyson / Unsplash

I'm currently embarking on a big burst of reading to prepare for one of my Chartered College of Teaching Exams, on the topic of within-lesson feedback. This made me realise that I didn't know as much as I'd like about feedback. I put out a call on Twitter this morning for wider reading; as usual, Twitter did not disappoint. This post will be very simple. Below, I'm going to sketch out some initial ideas and questions I have about feedback, which I will be looking for and testing as I read. If you're reading this and think I should be asking better questions, or you think you know of somewhere I can find the answers to said questions, please get in touch on Twitter: @curtaindsleep

Is marking – as we know it – dead?

I'm referring here to a 'traditional' idea of marking, if you like: reading a student's work, spotting errors, making a comment about a good thing, giving them a task for how they can improve their work, hand it back. They're then expected to do something to improve that work. In my school, we call this last part, as I'm sure many others do, DIRT, and it tends to take the form of a task. But:

Is there any point in asking students to improve work they've already done? Would it be better to get them to do something new instead?

If a student really can't do something, after receiving quality teaching, what makes us think that a simple DIRT task is going to make them get it? There have got to be better alternatives. I haven't been doing DIRT tasks for a while, despite their ubiquity in my setting, instead focussing on whole-class feedback.

What are the pitfalls of WCF?

I've seen a lot about the positive side of WCF, but what could go wrong? I've got plenty of reading stacked up in this regard and I'm looking forward to delving.

Shouldn't we just spend more time on better-quality teaching than feedback after the fact?

Rather than trying to fix what students got wrong, shouldn't we put our time and energy into modelling carefully? I've read and thought a lot about modelling recently, and it seems to be incredibly effective – surely needing to supply lots of corrective feedback is a marker of poor modelling?

Is it too easy to make feedback harmful?

I'm not quite sure how else to phrase the above, but it seems to me that the risks are high when we're giving feedback to students. Is it better to give too little than too much? Is it too easy to induce learned helplessness?
There are many more questions. I wrote this quickly so I could spend more time reading and thinking. I'm sure my thoughts will shape future posts.
I put them out here in case someone else has similar questions / thoughts and wants to follow along, and so people can – should they wish – engage with the questions and help me with my thinking.