Last year I experimented with dialogic feedback with one of my teen groups. This was inspired by part of Shelagh Rixon’s talk at the IATEFL YLTSIG Pre-Conference Event, in April 2019.
What is dialogic feedback?
Dialogic feedback is when there is a dialogue between the learner and the teacher, in place of ‘traditional’ feedback to a written or spoken task. It can be used as formative assessment or evaluation.
During this dialogue, the learner is given opportunities to improve on the initial task, with some guidance from the teacher.
What does it look like?
I used dialogic feedback with a group of upper secondary teenagers. The were in an Advanced (C1) class. The task they did initially was a written report.
Here’s how I did it:
1. When planning the lesson, I created a handout with success criteria for the task, as well as boxes which would allow both me and the students to write comments at different stages.
2. In the lesson we discussed the theme of the report, and looked at the structure of a report. We also looked at some formal language. Please note that all of this was ‘from the book’.
3. Before approaching the task, I gave the group some success criteria and looked at a model with them. They identified where the example had met certain criteria. The learners then had time to write their own report.
4. After they finished writing, I asked them to reflect on the success criteria. I asked them to write a comment (simply yes/no was enough) in the top left column on the handout. They also had time to improve their work, if they felt it was needed.
5. I collected in their writing, and the handout with the criteria on it.
6. After the lesson, I read their report and coloured in the success criteria on their handout to show if they had met (coloured in purple) or not met (green) that item on the list.
I ticked/underlined examples of where the criteria were met.
I also wrote a short comment about each criterion, and a general comment.
7. In the next lesson, learners had time to respond to the comments on the handout. We also had plenty of time in the lesson to make changes to their writing, based on my comments. They then wrote a comment to me, and I collected in the handout and their texts again.
8. After the lesson, I checked the changes that had been made and read their comments. I then wrote a final general comment. The comment included something about the improvements they had made, as well as some reference to the content of their writing.
9. In the next lesson, I handed everything out again and gave learners time to read my final comment.
That sounds like a lot of work!
It actually wasn’t too much work. As I’d created a template handout to use, I used this again for another task later in the term, so that saved me time.
You also don’t need to create a template- it’s perfectly possible for you to set up stages in the lesson to facilitate dialogic feedback, without requiring an extra handout. I just found it focused both me and the learners.
So, was it worth it?
I think so. I felt this was a manageable way for me to support each learner in making improvements to their own writing. It felt personal, and the group seemed to enjoy the process. They really appreciated the individual feedback.
I also think that so often teachers give writing tasks, the learners put in a lot of effort, and then all they ‘get’ is their grammar mistakes underlined and a grade! Whereas with this type of process, it demonstrates to learners that you actually care about what they’ve written. It also gives them agency to improve their writing, rather than wait for the teacher to write a suggested change on their work. Using success criteria also empowers learners, and gives them a clear route to success.
I loved using this approach because I feel it fosters a growth mindset. It tells learners that they can make mistakes, and then they can make it better! It also focuses learners on what they can do with the language… and it stops the teacher from simply focusing on spelling and grammatical errors!