The Importance of Feedback in Classrooms

Research Review: this information is a summary of Swinson, J. (2017). Evidence based practice, classroom behaviour, the importance of feedback. DECP Debate. 164. 17-21.


There is a great range of manualised programs regarding supporting children’s behaviour in the classroom. And that doesn’t even include the infinite number of blog posts/articles/pinterest pins full of creative ideas. But what actually works?

There tend to be common elements to all programs. These include: rules, consistency, clear expectations, boundaries and fostering good relationships between teachers and pupils. However, it doesn’t always follow that what is popular, works. So Jeremy Swinson has done a great job of finding out what does.

He found that the two most well explored areas are those of rules and feedback. Many research studies have looked at the comparative effects of having rules in a class, praising pupils who follow these rules and punishing those who don’t. The most interesting point raised from the research appeared to be that when the first two were in place (namely, rules and praise), the third (punishment or consequences) was rarely needed.

Indeed the advice provided is:

  1. Make very clear to pupils your expectations for the conduct of the lesson in terms of behaviour and what they are expected to do. This may include a set of classroom rules.
  2. Follow any directions given to the class by looking for pupils who are conforming and give them positive feedback.
  3. Redirect any pupils not following the rules, and then provide them with feedback as soon as they conform (‘catch them being good’)
  4. Always have a plan for any pupils who consistently fail to follow your directions. This is best dealt with at the end of the lesson so as not to interrupt your teaching.

They found that when teachers follow this advice the use of sanctions becomes redundant (although, they also found that teachers often misinterpreted this advice and provided positive feedback only on work, not on behaviour).

So what about when it goes wrong? Interestingly, Swinson poses that in classrooms with high rates of negative feedback, there is often low pupil engagement. It seems that as the class becomes more disruptive, the teacher begins to tell them off more, and there is little to no effect on the pupil’s behaviour, leading to a vicious cycle.

And finally, if you are aware of John Hattie’s summary of effective classroom interventions (updated in 2011 in his book Visible Learning for Teachers), you may recognise Feedback as being a well established intervention, with an effect size of 0.75.


Screenshot-2017-11-9 Hattie Ranking Interactive Visualization - VISIBLE LEARNING

If your professional development targets for this year include strengthening your behaviour management strategies, why not get in touch to see how Inclusive Classrooms can support you.

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