Supporting student independence

At Westhoughton High School, we know how vital it is to give students regular, insightful feedback to support future learning. However, we were concerned that teacher workload around marking and feedback was disproportionate to the impact on student progress. We wanted to engage students more independently in understanding their learning journey and taking next steps for themselves.

A working party of teachers trialled the use of label printers for formative feedback. They built up a bank of feedback strategies and label templates across different subjects along with evidence and case studies about their impact. Labels were used to reduce workload and sharpen feedback in a range of ways, such as to checklist success criteria (for students or the teacher to use), to be a statement bank of feedback statements and to give students differentiated, focused next step activities.

Through CPD, we explored a whole range of strategies for formative feedback that would engage students in taking action independently. We drew heavily on Dylan Wiliam’s AfL materials for inspiration but needed to see how well those strategies could work in our school. We trialled different strategies across departments and used our cross-curricular CPD communities to share experience and review impact. It was important to see the label printers as a tool, not an ends in themselves. They gave us a more efficient way of delivering high quality feedback and follow-on activities, without adding excessive workload.

Feedback from the pilot meant we invested in at least one label printer per subject area. As every teacher was already a member of a CPD community, everyone had heard about the potential of label printers for generating meaningful, differentiated task-based feedback which students could act upon in lessons. We wanted to give students a clear understanding of their next steps in learning and the time and tools to take those steps independently.

To embed new teaching habits, our CPD programme built in peer coaching and time for professional reflection.

What was the impact?

The main impact has been on our students because the whole initiative has sharpened up how they use teacher feedback in lessons. Students now expect most feedback to be a form of intervention or next steps in learning, where they will be directed towards a focused independent task, differentiated for their individual learning needs.