Digital Feedback in Primary Maths

This is a school-developed approach to improving teachers’ diagnosis and feedback skills when teaching maths in primary schools. Teachers will be provided with resources to quickly assess their pupils’ understanding of a topic, for example, through an individual multiple choice questions. Teachers will then be supported to provide effective feedback to help those pupils struggling with a topic, by using tablets to record video summaries of their feedback, rather than writing down a comment. The pupils will then have class time to review the feedback and develop from it. The aim is to increase the specificity and relevance of teachers’ feedback, making it easier for pupils to respond to it.

The intervention was developed with funding from CfBT by the headteacher, James Siddle, of one of the schools in the Lincolnshire-based teaching school alliance. Participating teachers from Years 4 or 5 in each school will receive initial training, and take part in monthly “professional learning communities”, led by the project team and Bishop Grosseteste University. A leader in each school will provide ongoing support and coaching to the teachers. Teachers will be expected to embed the approach into their normal class teaching and marking.

Why are we funding it?

This trial follows on from a small RCT of digital vs written feedback on a creative writing task, undertaken as part of National College’s “Closing the Gap: Test and Learn” programme, where schools were supported to undertake experiments. Pupils from 11 classes were randomly allocated to receive either written or digital feedback on a writing task, and then given another similar writing exercise. A sample of the final written work was then blindly marked. This small, short term trial found a positive impact on all pupils, and a greater one on disadvantaged pupils.

The EEF’s recent review of marking found little evidence for the extensive written marking that often forms the backbone of schools’ formal feedback suggested that more frequent verbal feedback might be more effective than written feedback. Off the back of this, we committed to spending £2 million to building the evidence base around teachers’ marking. This is the first grant awarded with that funding.

How are we evaluating it?

RAND Europe has been appointed to conduct the independent evaluation. The main trial will consist of a two-arm randomised control trial (RCT), with 60 primary schools. Efficacy trials aim to test whether an intervention can work under ideal conditions (e.g. when being delivered by the intervention’s original developer).

Each of the 60 primary schools will be involved, but the year groups (either Year 4 or 5) would be randomly assigned to treatment or control. The schools will be expected to train and support the allocated year group’s teachers throughout the academic year. At the end of the year, all the Year 4 and 5 pupils in the schools will sit a maths test.

The implementation and process evaluation will seek to assess how well the school leads transmitted their knowledge to the class teachers, and how well the class teachers were able to incorporate the approaches into their teaching.

When will the evaluation report be due?

The evaluation report will be published in Autumn 2019.