All entries for April 2023

April 24, 2023

Adaptive Teaching

by Robert Smith

During my five years of working in schools, I have seen national changes to the way in which teachers are expected to support pupils with additional needs. The geography department in my first school was praised for its extensive use of differentiated artefacts, such as simplified worksheets, and learning objectives: ‘all, most, some’. While some elements of this approach are certainly beneficial to the learning of those with additional needs, the national focus has shifted to one that applies high expectations to all groups (Department of Education, 2019). It is worth noting that while the Early Career Framework has stopped using the word ‘differentiation’ altogether (Department of Education, 2019), differentiated support to help all learners reach the same goal provides those who need support the help to achieve (Mould, 2021) and aligns with the new term ‘adaptive teaching’.

In my first placement of this course, two of the classes I taught were a top set year 8 and a bottom set year 7. I was surprised by the variation of ability in both classes. From my reading for my Subject Studies essay, I have recently learned about the detrimental effects of an internalised understanding of the class hierarchy, especially for those who recognise that they rank towards the bottom in comparison to their peers. I think the delivery of extension, or challenge, work is one area in which the teacher can reduce the conspicuousness of the hierarchy: ensuring extension work is clearly signposted for everyone may result in those moving onto the extension task being less noticeable and also intimates that everyone in the class is capable of reaching the extension task; I plan to incorporate this into my future teaching.

In order for all pupils to meet high expectations, it is necessary for those with needs to be given support in the most effective way. Considering work-load and effectiveness, Mould (2021) suggests teachers should provide focussed support rather than devoting time to creating myriad resources; during my first placement, I was introduced to many helpful resource websites that can prevent teachers reinventing the wheel. The focussed support Mould discusses is holistic, considering ‘pupils’ physical, social, and emotional well-being,’ including their relationships with peers, teachers and their families. Mould recommends regular communication between the individual, the school and the parents/guardians in order that everyone understands the barriers to learning and develop strategies to overcome them together. Alongside my mentor I spoke to parents at my first parents’ evening, and the benefits of building a relationship with parents was clear: the parents of one pupil, who is struggling with bullying, talked to us about their desire to have an open conversation with the school in order to support their child.

With the support of my mentor and expert colleagues, I believe I supported students well in my first placement, though this may be in part because I did not teach any classes with high levels of need. Moving forward, I would like to develop a practice of planning for adaptive teaching that supports all pupils without increasing the amount of time I spend on my lesson plans. As my understanding of the curriculum and the abilities of specific groups grows, I would like to better connect new knowledge to existing knowledge and recognise areas that require additional pre-teaching.


Department of Education (2019) Early Career Framework (online). Available at: [accessed 13.1.23].

Mould, K. (2021) EEF Blog: Assess, adjust, adapt – what does adaptive teaching mean to you? (online). Available at: [accessed 13.1.23].

April 17, 2023

Establishing Classroom Relationships

by Robert Smith

Developing a safe and predictable environment can have an enormous impact for both pupils generally and for a specific identified pupil. Bohn, Roehrig, and Pressley (2004) found that effective teachers introduce and maintain routines at the beginning of their relationship with each group. Doing so enables pupils to predict events throughout the lesson, helping them to feel safe. This feeling of security results in higher engagement and less problem behaviour. While this supports the behaviour and learning of all pupils, it can be particularly beneficial to individuals with higher needs; for example, though all pupils benefit when alerted of upcoming change, this predictability is especially supportive for individuals who are distressed by unexpected change (Kern and Clemens, 2007).

Similar to the early introduction of routines, the immediate establishment of rules impacts how safe a pupil feels in the classroom. Kern and Clemens (2007) advise that there be no more than five rules to aid memorisation, that each one be positively worded, and that they be displayed prominently in the classroom, to serve as both a reminder to pupils and as supporting artefacts for the teacher when reinforcing the rules. They suggest that engaging the students in the creation of the class rules is beneficial because it gives the pupils a sense of involvement, that the teacher cares about what they think, and it gives pupils choice; providing opportunities for choice is listed by Kern and Clemens (2007) as important at both class-wide and individual levels.

Kern and Clemens (2007) collated literature to consider the benefits of antecedent interventions and concluded that the implementation of such strategies can create a structured learning environment beneficial to most pupils. They divide antecedent strategies into two groups: class-wide and individual. They recommend that before class-wide strategies are considered school-wide ones need to be implemented, but these do not fall under the scope of their research. This improves the behaviour of pupils, which then makes responses to class-wide interventions more successful. Once class-wide strategies are implemented, teachers can implement individualised interventions to support pupils who have not adequately responded to general strategies. These individual interventions can only be successful if they are tailored to the needs of the specific pupil and environment, and so the teacher needs to have a solid understanding of what those needs are.

I am particularly interested in Kern and Clemens’ suggestion to involve students in rule making, creating as it does an element of accountability. I will incorporate this into my practice when I have the opportunity. Despite the mostly sequential nature of maths, I can also see plenty of opportunities for letting classes choose how to approach learning (visual scaffolding, bullet-pointed steps, etc.) as well as larger decisions, such as the order they learn non-sequential topics.

Typically, maths is taught using large amounts of repetitive questions that all practise the same new skill, yet this also increases the likelihood of problem behaviour (Kern and Clemens, 2007). I was interested to read about the benefits of incorporating simple, loosely related questions into the current work, and that pupils preferred this type of work despite there being more questions to answer (Kern and Clemens, 2007). These simpler questions could be used effectively as a form of retrieval practice, further benefiting the learning.


Bohn, C.M., Roehrig, A.D., and Pressley, M. (2004) 'The first days of school in the classrooms of two more effective and four less effective primary-grades teachers.' Elementary School Journal, 104, pp. 269–287.

Kern, L. and Clemens, N.H. (2007) 'Antecedent strategies to promote appropriate classroom behaviour.' Psychol. Schs., 44, pp. 65-75.

April 11, 2023

Warwick Wellbeing Pedagogies Library

This resource has been ‘co-developed by students and teachers to share practice and support our community to embed and sustain wellbeing in the curriculum, when planning modules, courses, and assessments’. The collation of pedagogical practices aims to support the enhancement of: student-centred environments; intercultural and international integration; emotional intelligence; and staff and student wellbeing.

April 03, 2023

Democratising the feedback process

Blog 7 of our Diverse Assessment Learning Series, based on a recent keynote address as part of the Diverse Assessments WIHEA Learning Circle

Linda Enow photo

By Dr Linda Enow, from Newman University, Birmingham UK

We need to rethink feedback in Higher Education (HE). To examine feedback in HE, this contribution engages with democratic principles, and through Audio-Visual feedback (AVF) interrogates current feedback practices. Some current gaps in feedback research are on understanding the nature of student engagement and interaction with feedback, relational constituents of feedback processes, and the role of technology in supporting feedback processes. This paper posits that power imbalance with feedback is a barrier to effective feedback engagement and interaction. Embedded in the, now challenged, conceptualisation of feedback giver and feedback recipient dynamic is implicit power imbalance. A further challenge for feedback is the over-reliance on written feedback within which is arguably entrenched the ‘product’ conceptualisation of feedback. Through the exploration of democratic and cognitive requirements of feedback, this contribution traces an outlook which values equitable relationships and emphasises the positioning of feedback as a process. Insights on feedback processes in this piece have emerged from empirical work on audio-visual feedback.

Where we are in HE with assessment design?

Significant strides are being taken to design diverse assessment tasks in HE. These tasks are designed with due consideration of the diverse student population and established knowledge of andragogy. Typically, assessment design aims to showcase inclusion. With graduate outcome requirements for HEIs in the UK, assessments subsequently engage with the more utilitarian constituent of seeking applicability in workplace settings. Perhaps assessments should be more dynamic, for instance generated from cohort identity and depth of knowledge of the practice requirements of students, rather than current static assessment practices. In any case, progress made with assessment design and the thinking behind assessment practices demonstrates the ongoing effort of Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) to be diverse in their practices, and this is welcome effort in the right direction.

As we diversify assessments, is feedback left behind?

In the context of assessment, the corresponding element of feedback is left behind. Written feedback remains the dominant feedback mode. A small proportion engages with audio-feedback, typically as a one-off. Audio-Visual Feedback (AVF) despite demonstrating its multimodal composition (see West & Turner, 2016) is minimally used compared to written feedback and audio feedback (Lowenthal, 2021; Nicol, 2012). Audio-visual feedback is inclusive, multimodal, precise, and retains its quality over time hence guaranteeing portability. The nature of AVF embeds verbal feedback with access to the written assignment, and the use of technology to enable precision. Verbalising naturally offers more depth in explanation with the added advantage of capturing relational constituents of feedback. AVF is a suitable format for the thinking or the cognitive composition of the feedback to become explicit (see Nicol, 2021). For all involved in the feedback process engagement and interaction are both enhanced. A summation of these strengths is reflected in Payne et al. (2022) positioning audio and video feedback modes as humanising.

We no longer ‘give’ feedback

Contemporary research on feedback processes tracks the evolution of feedback from the now defunct perception of information which was given to the students, to the contemporary understanding that; first of all feedback is a process, and secondly feedback is dialogic, ongoing and embedded with andragogical expectations, as well as aspirations of transferability and portability (e.g. de Kleijn, 2023; Winstone et al., 2022a). Equipped with the understanding that saying you are giving feedback is no longer acceptable (Winstone, et al., 2022b) from the andragogical perspective, this paper makes the case to re-think feedback processes from the bases of democratic principles. Educating, especially in HEIs in the UK, is based on foundational democratic principles imbued with a variety of duties, rights and responsibilities. Power imbalance is therefore in conflict with these democratic principles. From the position of evaluating HEIs in the UK, Winstone et al., (2022b: 1524) raises the concern that National Student Survey (NSS) questions “promote an outdated view of feedback as information transmitted from teacher to student in a timely and specific manner, largely ignoring the role of the student in learning through feedback processes”.

How do we democratise feedback?

Democratic principles advocate freedoms, rights and responsibilities. If we think about feedback following democratic principles, we interrogate primarily the power imbalance in the lecturer-student relationship. The lecturer is in the powerful position of ownership of the feedback which they ‘give’ to the student (see Matthews, et al., 2021). The sense of ownership of the feedback content is taken away from the student and the student becomes a recipient. This power imbalance means the student has a skewed relationship with this feedback which is being imposed on them. What is the student to do with this feedback which has been given to them? What if the student does not identify with the feedback which has been given? Carless (2015:28) declares; impact on learning is limited unless students are actively engaging with feedback processes, and ultimately acting on feedback. Consensus on what these processes constitute is yet to be arrived at as De Kleijn (2023) requests clarity of the activities and strategies which must be applied in these feedback processes. When democratic principles are not followed, distance is created between the student and the feedback process.

In contrast to the lecturer-student feedback element, there is strong uptake of peer-feedback. Peer feedback (see Deneen & Hoo, 2023) supports feedback dialogue, evidences students’ feedback literacy and supports development of self-regulation skills. The strong interest in peer feedback is a result of the significant benefits. Nicol and McCallum (2022) assert that powerful insights are generated from student feedback, at times more powerful than teacher feedback. From the research which this contribution on democratising feedback draws on, the strength of peer feedback is being explored and understood from the position of power. There is the opportunity to redesign assessments to possibly capture and support these peer feedback partnerships linking them to assessment design. Moving away from the conceptualisation of feedback as product, to feedback as process serves to further democratisation of feedback. Careful consideration in incorporating peer feedback within this process contributes to improving feedback dialogue, and to establishing tangible steps. Continuing this dialogue using the audio-visual mode opens up relational spaces and further enhances feedback processes.

Audio-Visual Feedback (AVF)

The discursive nature of AVF assists in personalising feedback and modelling the expectation for engaging with feedback. The multimodal nature of audio-visual feedback (Lacković, and Popova, 2021) necessitates active designation of time to not only engage with feedback, but to interact with feedback. AVF supports the transition of feedback into a process. There is a challenge embedded in this; assessment design minimally factors in feedback avenues and suitable allocation of time for AVF. This is understandable as written feedback is dominant in HEIs in the UK. In order for AVF to attain its full potential, HEIs need to re-work their assessment and feedback policies. Re-working policies is definitely not to give more time to turnaround times; rather this is more time to work on effectively embedding AVF as a viable feedback avenue. AVF is not without its potential challenges. One example is large class sizes and staffing limitations in some HEIs. A potential solution is considering AVF for group assessments and group feedback. Teaching in HEIs is inherently multimodal; combining written, audio and audio-visual content. Why is feedback disproportionately in one format?

Some points to facilitate change
  1. Undertake an audit of feedback formats; recording written format, audio format, and audio-visual format.
  2. Interrogate power imbalance relating to feedback and explore institution-focused and relevant ways to improve the power imbalance.
  3. Co-design feedback processes in line with contemporary co-designing of assessments. Ensure feedback is not an add-on or an after-thought to assessments (see Ajjawi and Boud, 2018).
  4. Review assessment and feedback policies.
  5. Equity: establish feedback processes reflective of advances in learning, teaching and scholarship.
What next?

Feedback is a process involving students and lecturers in a shared space. Cognitive, sociocultural, social constructivist positions, amongst others are at play and space needs to be created for democratic principles. Alongside making sense of feedback, cognitive drivers pass judgement on the utility of feedback, and decision making guides portability of feedback. This contribution advocates the externalisation of these cognitive constituents as a precursor to democratising feedback. The argument is; the student has a right to know. Knowing in this way is empowering. Through democratisation, the student evolves from the position of a recipient to that of a partner in the feedback process. Partnership conjures images of ownership, responsibility and duties. Democratising feedback, through the medium of audio-visual feedback (AVF) removes the power imbalance, showcases the dialogic nature of feedback, and enhances subsequent portability of knowledge and skills. Whilst there is empirical work on feedback as a process, implementation in the structures of HEIs is yet to follow.

This is the 7th blog in our diverse assessment series. Previous blogs can be found here:

Blog 1: Launch of the learning circle (Isabel Fischer & Leda Mirbahai):

Blog 2: Creative projects and the ‘state of play’ in diverse assessments (Lewis Beer):

Blog 3: Student experience of assessments (Molly Fowler):

Blog 4: Assessment Strategy – one year after starting the learning circle (Isabel Fischer & Leda Mirbahai):

Blog 5: Learnings and suggestions based on implementing diverse assessments in the foundation year at Warwick (Lucy Ryland):

Blog 6: How inclusive is your assessment strategy? (Leda Mirbahai):

Join the Diverse Assessment Learning Circle: If you would like to join the learning circle please contact the co-leads: Leda Mirbahai, Warwick Medical School (WMS) ( and Isabel Fischer, Warwick Business School (WBS) ( This LC is open to non-WIHEA members.


Ajjawi, R. & Boud, D. (2018) 'Examining the nature and effects of feedback dialogue', Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 43:7, 1106-1119, DOI: 10.1080/02602938.2018.1434128

Carless, D. (2015) Excellence in university assessment: learning from award-winning practice. London: Routledge.

Deneen, C. C. & Hoo, H-T. (2023) 'Connecting teacher and student assessment literacy with self-evaluation and peer feedback', Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 48:2, 214-226, DOI: 10.1080/02602938.2021.1967284

de Kleijn, R. A. M. (2023) 'Supporting student and teacher feedback literacy: an instructional model for student feedback processes', Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 48:2, 186-200, DOI: 10.1080/02602938.2021.1967283

Lacković, N. & Popova, B. (2021) 'Multimodality and socio-materiality of lectures in global universities’ media: accounting for bodies and things', Learning, Media and Technology, 46:4, 531-549, DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2021.19286

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  • Very interesting, thank you for sharing. Great CPD reflection. by Joel Milburn on this entry
  • Hi Lucy, Thank you for sharing the highs and lows of diverse assessments. I hope you have inspired o… by Anna Tranter on this entry
  • Hello Lucy, I totally agree with everything you have said here. And well done for having the energy … by Natalie Sharpling on this entry
  • Thank you for setting up this Learning Circle. Clearly, this is an area where we can make real progr… by Gwen Van der Velden on this entry
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