Learn how to up your English teaching practice using technology for feedback effectively, with EdTech expert, Mark Anderson.

Assessment and feedback are the cornerstone of every teacher’s practice – impacting student performance and, critically, their engagement in the overall learning experience.

Many have shared their thoughts on feedback over the years but one quote that has always stuck with me is the one from John Hattie in his seminal ‘Visible Learning for Teachers’ book where he shares that feedback should be… “just for me, just in time, just for where I am in my learning process, just what I need to move me forward.” 1

If you want students to stay engaged in their learning, then feedback should be, from how Hattie shares it:

  • personalised
  • timely
  • relevant
  • helpful. 1

We know that technology is often used best when it is used to do things that wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for the technology. For feedback, it offers many opportunities to help meet Hattie’s points. Technology, therefore, allows us to enhance feedback.

The Education Endowment Foundation’s (EEF) report, Using Digital Technology to Improve Learning underscores the potential for technology to transform assessment and feedback whilst giving us the measured caveat that we should make sure that its use is done so with careful consideration to pedagogy and implementation​​​​.

How we can harness technology effectively for feedback in English classrooms, ensuring that its use is not just a bolt-on but something that can be a meaningful support to drive improvement, reflection and engagement?

Efficient assessment systems

Effective assessment is integral to teaching, offering a lens into students’ comprehension. Online quizzes and automated marking systems can streamline this process, providing immediate, actionable insights​​. An informed decision is a good decision and these tools can provide teachers with valuable understanding whilst mitigating the risk of subjective misjudgement.

The power of technology in feedback lies in its application. It’s not just about collecting data but how it informs what you do next. For example, using learner response systems can offer real-time feedback, allowing you to adjust your teaching on the fly, address misconceptions and reinforce concepts in the moment​​.

One use I saw recently was in a French lesson where the students were using 1:1 devices and being monitored classroom management solution. As they were writing and practising their new vocabulary and grammar in Microsoft Word, the teacher could intervene in the moment as he saw pupils making errors. Here, within the lesson, the feedback was kind, specific, helpful, timely and perfect for helping the students move forward positively – a seamless combination of technology and pedagogy surrounding the required content knowledge in the lesson. And for those that have spotted what I’ve just said, you’re correct – TPACK (the model postulated by Koehler and Mishra (a development of Shulman’s PCK model) which combines thinking around content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge and technological knowledge) is a fantastic model to frame your thinking around effective use of technology in the classroom!

Fostering meaningful feedback

Feedback helps students to grow and provides them with a direction for improvement. It also reinforces self-regulation in their learning. Technology, through various forms, can offer personalised feedback that’s both timely and specific.

St Margaret’s CE Primary School in Withern, Lincolnshire (a case study within the EEF’s report), introduced tablet computers to record verbal feedback over annotations of pupils’ work. This approach not only saved teachers time but also provided students with an intimate and focused feedback loop, allowing them to review and act upon the guidance at their own pace​​.

It’s critical, however, that digital feedback does not exist in isolation. It must complement traditional methods, ensuring that students receive a well-rounded response that targets their learning needs​​.

Also, ensure that the systems you choose are used alongside your standard record-keeping tools. Every teacher has a significant workload and number of students they interact with. You simply cannot remember everything. Using in-school systems like your school’s MIS (management information system) or workflow tool to keep track of the interactions and feedback you’ve given is a great idea.

Challenges and considerations

While the benefits are clear, integrating technology into feedback mechanisms is not without its challenges. Thoughtful implementation and ongoing monitoring are key. We should view technology as a tool to amplify good teaching practices, not replace them. The effectiveness of digital feedback systems depends on the quality of the pedagogy they support and how consistently they’re used.

Often, your SLT and digital leads will have a shared set of agreed systems for you to use, whether related to feedback or any other teaching and learning or administrative activity. It might be that you come across a great new tool that could help with feedback; it’s always important though to ensure whether it’s appropriate to use it. This isn’t about removing teacher autonomy. Let’s say there’s AI built into it to help deliver more effective feedback or a way it reduces your workload; there are other considerations which need to be checked. Is it GDPR compliant? Does it work within your ecosystem? Will it confuse learners to have another technology tool to learn? Does it pose any security risks? Checking whether it’s appropriate to use a tool before you dive in is always good advice.

Learning activities, types of feedback and tools to support them

It’s all well and good to have this knowledge, but how can we implement it? As a takeaway, I thought a simple table containing some of the activities that take place in an English class, the types of feedback that can support and tools that can help, would be useful for you. So, here you are!

Learning activity and type of feedbackApproaches to using technology (with examples)

Book review or poetry analysis

Audio feedback

Any kind of set written assignment where students can write and you can leave audio feedback. Example tools to use could be Mote in a Google Doc, or audio note in OneNote Class Notebook.

Grammar exercises

Automated or corrective feedback

Use formative assessment tools that provide instant responses to student inputs, helping them to correct and learn from errors quickly. E.g., Memrise or, for in-the-moment fixes, Grammarly.

Persuasive essay writing

Peer or formative feedback

Use word processing tools in your ecosystem to support collaborative document editing and commentary for comprehensive feedback on student work.

Reading comprehension activities

Automated feedback

Tools such as Microsoft’s Reading Progress allow students to practice their reading fluency to their devices whilst giving feedback on their success and opportunities to improve.

Is tech always appropriate?

I’m reminded of something my former colleague Zoë Elder shared with me a long while ago about using technology in the classroom: “Technology should enhance, not dictate the learning.” And an adage I’ve long shared is that “just because we can do something with technology, shouldn’t mean that we should.” 

When using technology to support feedback in English, we should remember that it’s not about the fanciest new tools or whizziest tech, because sometimes that isn’t the answer to support learners effectively. If we can ensure that feedback is timely, personalised, relevant and helpful, and that technology can help, then that gives us a great target to work towards.

References

  1. Hattie, J. ( 2012) Visible Learning for Teachers; Maximizing Impact on Learning. London: Routledge

Author

  • Mark Anderson

    Mark is a global speaker, EdTech expert, trainer, blogger, author and key note speaker, known as the ICT Evangelist. He has over 20 years of experience in the classroom. Mark is the head of education at NetSupport, an Independent Thinking associate, an MIE Expert and fellow of the Chartered College of Teaching. His latest book can be found at edtechplaybook.com.
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