The power of feedback
We know, and research confirms, that feedback is an essential part of teaching and learning. Research specific to the teaching of writing demonstrates that consistently clear, timely and meaningful feedback delivered to individuals, most often through a pupil conference, leads to academic improvement and high attainment on a long-term basis (Young & Ferguson 2021). The affective impact on pupils of this kind of feedback is also highlighted in the research, which shows that it contributes in great measure to feelings of confidence and motivation, helps create a positive self-belief and the willingness to persevere, and gives the writer a sense of happiness and well-being.
Research also suggests that verbal feedback given when children are actually engaged in writing is more effective than written marking after the event (Young & Ferguson 2021). A teacher conferencing with a pupil is in a unique position to give constructive feedback and relevant instruction based on what the pupil tells them about their goals and intentions for their writing that day.
What is pupil-conferencing?
Conferencing with a pupil while they are engaged in writing is an idea and a practice which gives you the perfect opportunity to make a rich response to their writing, and to combine high-quality, direct, individualised and relevant instruction with the kind of feedback which moves the child on in their development as a writer. During each conference you will be giving them a little more ‘real writer’ knowledge to take forward into new writing projects – and, importantly, into their present and future lives beyond the school gates. The interactions you have with the child in a conference enable you to make a formative assessment and then begin responsive teaching. And what better way than regular conferencing to get to know each child as a writer?
We know from research that pupil conferencing is one of the fourteen principles of world-class writing teaching. In our book Writing for Pleasure: Theory, Research and Practice, we identify conferencing as an essential part of a Writing For Pleasure pedagogy and describe how teachers carry it out.
We would like to give special thanks to our teacher-affiliates Sam Creighton, Marcela Vasques, Benjamin Harris, Nicola Izibili and Tobias Hayden for their time, expertise and examples of practice. Thank you.