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Reporting: The Power of Formative Feedback

Evidence for the power of formative feedback is vast and compelling, which is why we at Radnor House Sevenoaks give great thought to how we communicate this to our learners and all those who support them in their endeavours.

Scott Milne, Deputy Head (Academic) writes:

The traditional approach to reporting involves making a summative judgement about the quality of what a student produces, usually by assigning a grade to it. Whilst this provides some useful recognition of how things have gone recently, it tells us little about why a particular student is performing at the level they are and even less about what might or ought to happen in the future. In order to improve outcomes, we must focus our feedback on the behaviours that will have the desired results, encouraging students to develop the kind of learning habits that will serve them well both now and well into the future.

To this end, we have identified three key behaviours that will form the core data we report on in the Senior School:

· Effort

· Organisation

· Behaviour

These are elements that students themselves can control and which have demonstrable effect on their learning at all stages. Students also receive feedback regarding the quality of work produced, but our approach here differs depending on the stage the pupil is at in their studies.

Year 9 - Year 13

At GCSE and A Level, we have set criteria, standardised between multiple subjects and exam boards across many thousands of candidates nationally, that allow us to provide an objective measure of success. This gives us the confidence to indicate for students in Years 9-13 what their endeavours are likely to result in when it comes to public exams at the end of their course of study. This ‘On Track to Achieve’ grade is then tracked against an aspirational 'Target Grade'. Where students are likely to fall short of that, additional guidance is offered as to how they can adjust their working habits to secure greater success. This again shifts the focus from outcomes to learning habits and behaviours, informing what happens in future rather than solely looking backwards.

Years 7 & 8

Our status as an independent school allows us the flexibility to develop curricula which prepare students for all the challenges ahead of them, not solely the relatively narrow focus of public exams. This is especially true in Years 7&8, where the prospect of public exams is still several years away.

As such, our students in Years 7&8 have their academic work tracked against expectations of them as an individual rather than the requirements of a set of public exams that are four or five years ahead of them. These expectations will vary between subjects and students depending on their aptitudes, prior knowledge, and learning profiles, facilitating further discussions that are focused on the learner rather than public exam grade criteria.

Ultimately, our reporting procedures are designed to shift the conversation from 'how did I do?' to 'how can I improve further?'. That focus on improvement means that the successes that are celebrated in the months and years to come are all the greater.

Some further reading: Teacher Feedback to Improve Pupil Learning | EEF (

Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential (Carol Dweck)

Inside the Black Box: Raising standards through classroom assessment (Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam)

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