Can S'pore schools deliver feedback more effectively?

In Singapore schools, feedback on students comes through graded assessment papers, twice-a-year report cards and annual parent-teacher sessions. These provide a snapshot of how students are doing academically and socially, but say little about how they can improve.

Does this have a positive impact on student achievement, and is there a better way? Based on research evidence, successful feedback should be timely, specific and process-focused. I would like to break down the example of how a school in the United States provides feedback using these three measures.

•Timeliness: In the US school that my children are attending, there are multiple low-stake assessments throughout the year. These are marked and uploaded immediately, with short explanations of why marks were deducted. The combination of ongoing testing for learning gaps and access to real-time reports provides students and parents with a robust and objective system of knowing what actions are needed for improvement. A student may, for example, need help with content or submitting work on time.

•Specificity: An interim report is given to every student in the middle of the school trimester, containing a detailed analysis of the student's performance in each subject. It shares what the student has done well in and where he has fallen short. Unlike in Singapore, where the report cards are for parents, the interim report is explained and given to students. Parents have access to it, but it is clear that the student owns it.

•Focus on process: British emeritus professor Dylan Wiliam explained that feedback should have a "process focus". When schools provide feedback on what students need to do to improve, it focuses on the task and how to go about it. Giving students clear strategies they can adopt to reach achievable goals ensures they have the opportunity to act on feedback as soon as they get it. This motivates and strengthens their belief in themselves.

Can feedback be delivered more effectively in Singapore schools?

Priscilla Ang (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 21, 2019, with the headline 'Can S'pore schools deliver feedback more effectively?'. Print Edition | Subscribe