The more I think about assessment, the more fascinating and intricate I find it. Superficially, it used to seem really straight forward; teacher tells you what to do and how to succeed, you do it and the teacher tells you how you have done. Simples. Or maybe it is having that just in time learning conversation which not only helps learners see where they are, but also where they can get to. The horizon is vast. Or maybe it is all of theses things?
I don't think a single blog post will suffice to make my thinking clear, even to myself, so in this post, I would like to focus on feedforward. Now you may think this is a piece of jargon with which we can play bullsh*t bingo, but I genunely believe it is a worthwhile clarification of what we truly mean by feedback, which Hattie's meta studies say has an effect size of 0.81.
I remember coining this term a couple of years ago (I am not claiming originality here by the way, simply that I had never heard the term - in fact a quick Google finds this from 2002) in an in house workshop on assessment with none other than my great friend Darren Mead. We were talking about the difference between formal AfL strategies (like setting objectives and succes criteria, reviewing learning of content, skills and attributes) and the kind of ongoing learning conversations that allow teachers and learners to have a more ongoing form of feedback (I discussed this similie here).
I felt it was really important to be explicit by what we meant by feedback as it has a myriad of forms and purposes, but more important was the need to differentiate between feedback which is someone or something (learning analytics) telling a person how they have been going in learning and where they are on their flight path towards a learning goal (this flight path for me is best understood for both teacher and learner through the SOLO taxonomy). Feedforward on the other hand is about supporting the learner with the next steps to achieve their learning goal. In short hand, one could use the acronym www/ebi - what went well (feedback) vs Even better if (feedforward). This approach is also exemplified in Ron Berger's mantra on critique which should be "kind,specific and helpful" implying some positive comments on the work so far, but as importantly specific and helpful ways to move forward. This video is a jaw dropping example of how effective that can be.
Now you may think that I am teaching granny to suck eggs and that all of this is implied in the term feedback, but two things convince me otherwise. Number one; observed peer, self and often teacher formative assessment comes under the umbrella of feedback because it is often about giving opinions and it is much easier to talk about what has been done well (and even easier to say what has been done badly) than it is to give feedforward which implies a reflection on the strategies, knowledge, skills and attributes which may help the learner move towards their desired learning goal or at least in the right general direction! Secondly, now that I am living in Australia it is amazing to see how diverse people's understanding of the language around assessment is; language is key and being as clear as possible can only be positive when aligning the scope of what is interoperable in terms of deliverables (see what I mean Tomo...) So I don't believe #feedforward is bullsh*t bingo fodder, but I do believe it deserves a hashtag and would like to hear your thoughts on it!
Here is a copy of the presentation I gave at Teachmeet Melbourne on this very topic on Saturday.