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Verbal feedback gets pupils thinking

31 August 2010 NWO (Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research)

How do you encourage pupils to think about their own development? By getting the teachers to talk with them about their portfolio. An increasing number of schools are expecting a lot from a digital development portfolio. In this portfolio, pupils collect their own work with the associated reflections over a longer period of time. Dutch researcher Marieke van der Schaaf from Utrecht University has demonstrated that teachers can support pupils in their self-reflection process.

In a portfolio, pupils maintain a record of what they do and learn. An essential aspect of the learning is that pupils also think about how and what they learn: reflection. Van der Schaaf discovered that reflection only constitutes twenty percent of the portfolio material. She also found that the pupils were scarcely motivated to work with portfolios, although girls were slightly more motivated than boys. The motivation to compile a portfolio is not related to the quantity and the level of reflection that the portfolios contain.

Teachers do not encourage reflection

The research also found that the in the meetings between pupils and teachers about the portfolios, only twenty percent of the time was spent on the reflective element. In general, pupils have the tendency to describe their approach or to elaborate on this without demonstrating that they have thought about this in any depth. Teachers often fail to invite them to do this during the meetings.

Dialogue important for understanding

According to the researcher, teachers can help pupils to reflect about the portfolios and research projects during the meetings by using a fixed meeting agenda and by determining in advance which assessment criteria they will use. Providing supportive feedback not only means that the teacher informs the pupil about what is good or less good but also why that is the case and how better results could be achieved. The pupil should preferably be given the opportunity to respond to feedback so that a dialogue develops in which the pupil can pose questions to the teacher and the teacher can check if the pupil has understood the feedback.

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