Here are some of my thoughts on the role of feedback and marking used for SEN students. These are my own thought and observations based on a small number of students with ASD and severe communication difficulties. Representative of only a small number of students in the education system but some elements probably apply to those with SEN in mainstream settings. This was originally following on from a twitter chat with @learningspy David Didau
First of all in terms of both marking and feedback I think it is important to state that it is imperative that language/marks given are for the learner not just to prove to an observer that you are doing it. The methods we use may be very subtle, a touch on the shoulder a quick smile or thumbs up. We are not alone in teaching students that find attention overwhelming and a cause of anxiety. I teach children for whom eye contact is difficult to manage but a sign delivered at chest height is acceptable.
First of all MARKING.
This needs to be done during the task for two reasons
1) Once the student has completed the task, worksheet(!) or activity they often consider it finished and attention shifts to the next activity usually a motivator. Now you could make marking part of the task if you have enough staff to sit with the student immediately
2)Students recall of information is limited so they may not link the marking with the task completed. We use repetition of tasks over a number of weeks to ensure the skills are embedded (and it is about skills, independence, life etc).
What form does the marking take – is it ticks in a mark book for assessment records or a photo of the student with the task?
First and foremost the teacher (and observer) must acknowledge the importance of the Students level of understanding. In our case the cognitive ability of our students may appear greater for example they can read words and sentances but they can’t comprehend the meaning. To someone who does not know the student they may assume written feedback would be effective.
A lot of students with SEN struggle with both visual and auditory language. Limited understanding so saying “good” might work, showing a symbol of a tick or smiley face might work in letting them know they have achieved something or you are happy with them. But not all learners will respond to this.
It is just as important with SEN as mainstream that the teacher is fully aware of what each student is doing. picking up the tiny subtle achievements such as even picking the pencil up. This may look like overpraise in some settings but links with building confidence and self esteem.
In one class you may have a range of feedback methods. You may not be able to and I quote an observation from my early career “pull the students together at the end of the lesson.” The typical plenary may in fact be multiple plenaries throughout the session. As nice as group feedback is and sharing successes with the class this has to be handled carefully.
Receiving feedback is often a skill that needs to be taught – as you say it is an opinion. Have we provided the student a way to respond to the feedback, do they agree, did the teacher explain the task or make the objectives clear and appropriate. This could arguably be more important. As much as all students enjoy positive interactions it is the feeling of completing a task and being in an environment where they are valued that will provide the greatest benefit to their education.
This ramble is only my thoughts. Thank you for taking the time to read and representing the teachers!