Planning for reteaching

It’s a startling statistic that in 38% of well-designed studies, Kluger and DeNisi found that feedback actually made performance worse. This is a warning to all teachers – feedback is hard and complex.

One reason written feedback is so challenging is because teachers don’t have enough time to provide the necessary detail that students need in order for them to make sense of the feedback. Instead, we are forced to write generic statements that are difficult for students to understand and/or action. Perhaps then a more sustainable approach is to carry out whole class reteach. This is a lesson that has been specifically planned to remedy mistakes and misconceptions. On the surface, this lesson could look like any other. However, its substance is informed, not by pre-determined schemes of work, but by how students actually performed on a previous task or assessment.

Focus  – you can’t do it all, and you don’t need to

Perhaps, the most important aspect of effective reteach is focus. Focus in on a specific aspect of the exam that the majority of students performed poorly on – don’t try and go through the entire exam in one go. We want learning, we don’t just want green pen corrections. For those students who did OK in the first place use this time to extend their thinking, but keep them part of the group. This is because, through their questions and answers, these students will likely play an important role in developing the collective wisdom of the class. 

What should I reteach? The low-hanging fruit.

So, what questions should you choose to reteach – are these simply the questions students performed worse on in the exam? A starting point has to be to look at the data but with a healthy dose of scepticism. When I say I data I mean information – this could be from a question level analysis, student exam papers or student work. What you are looking for is the ‘low-hanging fruit’.  These are the questions where students underperformed i.e. achieved marks below comparable groups. If you focus your reteach sessions on these areas, then students are more likely to find success. But don’t just assume students did badly on a question because they didn’t know the topic – look to find the root cause of the confusion i.e. is it about not knowing vocabulary or command terms, having misconceptions, or being unfamiliar with the context?

What should I reteach? The key concepts.

Then there are the concepts that are hard but fundamental. Many students will have struggled with these questions. These concepts are considered so important that they are worth persevering with because they will enable students to access many other questions and concepts within the subject. An example from science might be the concept of validity – not necessarily an easy concept to understand, but it’s a concept that is so fundamental to understanding the discipline of science that we cannot ignore it.

Do it differently

Once you have identified what you want to reteach you can then think about how you are going to close any gaps. Simply repeating how you taught it first time is probably not going to work – because it didn’t first time around! Start by completing the questions yourself that students struggled on and identify what knowledge students needed to know. Write the key three questions you want students to be able to answer by the end of your reteach lesson and, importantly, script the student response you are expecting. Then sequence this knowledge through your lesson and use multiple choice questions to explore understanding and make thinking visible. Model what great work looks like using visualisers and student work. And finally, think how you will check to make sure the gap has been closed both now and in the future.

Further reading

Kluger, A. N., & DeNisi, A. (1996). The effects of feedback interventions on performance: A historical review, a meta-analysis, and a preliminary feedback intervention theory. Psychological Bulletin, 119(2), 254–284.

  1. Summative assessments in science
  2. Assessment design – 10 principles 
  3. Standarisation and marking accurately
  4. Question level analysis
  5. Planning for reteach
  6. Peer assessment in science
  7. Written feedback in science
  8. Assessing scientific skills in science