Teaching and Learning

TLC – Verbal Feedback (2)

Verbal feedback

This year I have joined a TLC at school with a focus on Verbal Feedback. In my last post I talked about where my reading and thoughts about verbal feedback were leading me. More than anything in PE, the ability to be critically reflective is one that is going to help improve performance. Whilst I’m sure I could concentrate on my own verbal feedback, student verbal feedback within PE is constant and inaccurate if the research is right. If there is any chance I can improve that, by reducing the inaccuracies, that may have a bigger impact than if I just focused on my own verbal feedback. If I can produce students who are able to deliver high quality critical feedback on their own or their peers performance, and also offer suggestions for improvement then perhaps I can have a bigger impact on their development within Physical Education?

So what do I have to work with? Today was the final lesson of my Year 8 unit of work. I asked students to watch their peers swim and give me feedback on the technique of the stroke. No other information was given. This is what I got:




As you can hear it is not a great level. If this is the sort of quality of verbal feedback that is happening within my class, I need to rectify that. I’m wondering how many times I’ve used ‘you’ve got 30 seconds, give some feedback to your partner’ and never checked on what was being said. Hattie in his paper ‘The Power of Feedback’ states that simply providing more feedback will not work. Feedback needs to make the student engage with the task at hand and then make them change in the way they approach or perform the task. For me in PE that means even a marginal change will be successful feedback. How do I try to get there by making students better at giving high quality feedback and reducing inaccuracies? What are my three biggest challenges I need to plan for if I’m going to improve a students verbal feedback?

1. Vocabulary

It is quite clear listening to these students and to others that I do not teach them the correct technical vocabulary particularly well. We have spent over 9 hours of lesson time taking about body position, arm pull, surface area, water resistance, being streamline etc. Perhaps I just talked about it and assumed they had listen? Reflecting back on it I’m not sure that I spent that much time ensuring they understood and could correctly use the specific vocabulary. For students to be able to improve the accuracy and meaning of their verbal feedback I think I first must try to increase their technical vocabulary and ensuring they speak in full sentences. Andy Tharby’s blog post on distilling the best out of words has given me some inspiration and I feel this is something I could bring into the PE classroom, especially with regards to peer and self verbal feedback.

2. Modelling

Whilst I probably give verbal feedback constantly to students to every lessons, I have definitely not modelled it. Last year I produced a guide for my students to use when giving verbal feedback.


It worked well as a prompt, but I didn’t actually specifically teach them what to do. Neither did I model what good quality and effective feedback was, either myself, or by using students. One colleague suggested I record students giving feedback, then play it back to the whole class on a speaker. That way we can break it down and start understanding what bad feedback sounds like and what good feedback sounds like. This is an idea I think I really want to explore and potentially has merit. I also want to take the guide and get the students input into turning it into something that is more valuable in helping them shape their own feedback.

Within PE itself I will have to teach students how to observe and what to look for. Obviously I want them to be able to give feedback on the overall performance, but this can be broken down further, perhaps into tactical, technical, physical and psychological? The technical aspects could be broken down into the preparation, execution and follow through phases of a skill. Whilst I feel this level of observation, analysis and feedback would be amazing to have its probably going to take away from the practical element of PE. Focusing on observing and clearly describing with correct technical vocabulary should be my initial aim for modelling.

3. Peer Culture

After reading the Hidden Lives of Learners by Nuthall it is clear to me that if any feedback is going to be successful to the students then I need to create an environment where not only is it expected but it is encouraged and welcome.   Learning and learning about ourselves I think is a very different thing, and feedback from a peer about your performance within PE is generally learning about yourself. Therefore I need to shape students to not only want to give high quality feedback, but to also listen to it in a positive and calm manner and then act on it. I’m hoping that the modelling will start the process of developing that culture. Opening up what is being said and how it is being received will be a starting point to ensure that students. I also need to get my students to understand that errors need to be welcomed and foster positive relationships between them. My role within the classroom is to intervene and ensure I foster correct peer feedback and responses at all times.


What do I want them to be able to do?

I want my students to be able to observe either their own or their peers performance and then verbally critique. Describing key strengths and weaknesses of the performance and then to propose a suitable plan to improve it. If every child within my class is capable of that, then in my opinion it raises the chances of more marginal gains being acquired by the students. 1 to 1 feedback is possible in PE but having more people in the class being able to provide high quality 1 to 1 verbal feedback will hopefully improve either more of them or more rapidly. Class feedback when presented to the whole group I feel doesn’t work as well in PE. On many occasions the errors that I have picked out to improve, students don’t believe is being directed at them, therefore continuing to do what they previously had done. If every child was to received some form of personal one to one feedback, from a peer, that they could understand and interpret correctly for themselves then I think I would have achieved my aim.


Next Step?

I have to go with a plan to my next TLC meeting this week. It is going to focus around Year 8 gymnastics and pupils creating a sequence. My focus on the unit of work will be teaching students specific gymnastics vocabulary, modelling what good feedback (and poor feedback) sounds like and trying to build a positive peer culture so that students begin to give and also received higher quality feedback. I need to discuss this plan with another colleague in my TLC and have my action points to go away at half term to help plan and prepare my unit of work.

My key points for planning:

  • a questionnaire to be given to students before and after the unit of work that focuses on their ability to both give and implement verbal feedback
  • produces a list of technical vocabulary that is linked to gymnastics that I want students to use
  • plan to record students feedback and critique it as a class
  • record my own feedback and have the class critique it
  • share voice recordings of feedback via Edmodo – linked to a video of the performance they are observing
  • challenge pupils to speak clearly and in full sentences
  • Where possible try to intervene that aim to foster correct peer feedback
  • Manage the class environment so students feel happy and comfortable to both give and receive feedback

Obviously I am not a researcher, but if any colleagues with research experience have any suggestions for tweaking my plan of action so that I could possible get some useful data and information to share in my school, then I would be eternally appreciative. Please contact me at or @ImSporticus.

By @ImSporticus

Lecturer in PE, Sport and Physical Activity. Helping others to flourish through movement.

4 replies on “TLC – Verbal Feedback (2)”

Very interesting idea.Here are some of my thoughts…
1. I’m not sure if requiring full sentences would be helpful. If it was written, then yes but spoken not so much.
2. The real test is did the recipient get useful information. You might add a second component to test this.
3. I’ve found that watching and understanding an athletic movement is very difficult. It takes years of experience. I’m not sure if kids would be able to observe and then make relevant comments.
4. With that said, I would limit the amount criteria to be observed and then commented on.
5. Your last point is very valid. Kids (and adults) find it difficult to be appropriate in giving feedback. They need to feel safe to do it at all.
Best of luck! btw, found you on Twitter and I loved the pic.


Hi Ron. Thanks for your comments. Your first comment was shared with other teachers who are in my learning community. They went as far to say that technical language wasn’t needed as long as the other student understood what was being said. Observing is very difficult as you say, even with my experience I still miss certain things. Within the department all the teachers can see different things and come up with different strengths and weaknesses when looking at the same student. Your advice about set criteria is very valid and is something that I’m already planning as part of this project. Need to reduce the focus on what they are observing to improve the quality of the feedback. However it’s your second comment I think is key, all of it is potentially pointless, including creating an atmosphere where they feel safe, if the recipient didn’t get useful information and they changed/refined/improved their performance.

Thanks for the wish of good luck. I shall take on board what you have said and keep you updated on how it goes.


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