Saturday, 15 September 2012


I was re-reading the Sutton Trust's publication; ‘Toolkit of Strategies to Improve Learning’ which summarises research evidence on improving learning and attainment to help schools to make more informed choices about how to support their students.
The report looks at different approaches to improving learning in schools, and identifies the strength of the research evidence and then makes an estimate of the costs of adopting that approach. The toolkit also provides guidance on whether the approaches are applicable to primary or secondary school settings, and in which core subjects – English, maths or science. The aim of the toolkit is to encourage schools and teachers to make their own informed choices and adopt a more ‘evidence based’ approach. More than ever, at a time when resources are limited, we need to ensure that we use the things that make the greatest difference to outcomes for our children and young people.

The Sutton Trust research identifies effective feedback as the single most important part of any organisational improvement toolkit. "Feedback is information given to the learner and/or the teacher about the learner’s performance relative to the learning goals which then redirects or refocuses either the teachers or the learners actions to achieve the goal. It can be about the learning activity or task itself, about the process of the task or activity, about the student’s management of their own learning or their self-regulation or about them as individuals."

The Sutton Trust research suggests that feedback should be:
  • about challenging tasks or goals (rather than easy ones); 
  • given sparingly (i.e. needs to be meaningful); 
  • about what is right rather than what is wrong; 
  • as specific as possible and compare what the learner is doing right now with what they have done wrong before; and 
  • encouraging, and not threaten the learners' self-esteem. 
Interestingly the cost of providing more effective feedback is not high. One study even estimates that the impact of rapid feedback on learning is 124 time more cost effective that reducing class sizes!" You can find the toolkit on the Sutton Trust website at

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