Research School Network: Feedback to improve writing How carefully planned feedback can be used to improve writing in KS1 and KS2


Feedback to improve writing

How carefully planned feedback can be used to improve writing in KS1 and KS2

by Blackpool Research School
on the

Charlotte Hindley - Assistant Headteacher and Director of Research at CFAT

As Dylan William suggests in his recent TES article, the field of guidance for teachers surrounding the much-debated issue of feedback is flooded with advice, blogs, and research. Teachers and leaders often feel bombarded, and the temptation is often to disregard it and just go with their hunches; however this could be potentially harmful for pupils’ learning, and we could miss some of the powerful nuances regarding what constitutes effective feedback.

On Friday 11th June, the EEF released its latest guidance report: Teacher Feedback to Improve Pupil Learning. This meta-analysis has produced a clearly written and highly focused set of recommendations that provide teachers and leaders with much welcomed clarification on the many questions linked to feedback: how and when to give it for the most impact on pupils’ progress and learning. The guidance report highlighted three key principles of effective feedback:

  1. Lay the foundations for effective feedback, with high-quality initial teaching that includes careful formative assessment
  2. Deliver appropriately timed feedback that focuses upon moving the learning forwards
  3. Plan for how pupils will receive and use feedback using strategies to ensure that pupils will act on the feedback offered

Previously the feedback debate has centred on the method of feedback: whether extensive written feedback or verbal feedback are most beneficial. The guidance report guides us away from this historical question and allows us to focus upon what really matters and encourages a renewed focus upon the findings from educational research guiding teachers towards best bets’ to implement.

The guidance report’s stance is refreshing, encouraging teachers to see feedback as part of high-quality instruction. As Hattie and Timperley (2007), noted, Feedback…by its very definition… is of little use when there is no initial learning; it must build upon and be a core part of the teaching and learning cycle.

Exploring the Recommendations

The recommendations in this report have refocused our schools’ view on feedback. As a school, we’ve previously focused upon reviewing our practice linked to recommendation 2, carefully judging the most effective time to provide feedback to pupils and crafting it to ensure pupils pay close attention to their next steps. However, recommendation 3 particularly resonated with me and highlighted the barriers, specifically pupil-level factors that may impact on the effectiveness of feedback and influence how likely pupils are to act upon it.

47% of primary teachers, surveyed by a review of practice, identified a lack of pupil motivation as a reason why pupils may not use feedback.

This diagram from the guidance report highlights the different factors that may influence pupils’ use of feedback and how they receive it.

On reflection, our pupils sometimes did not see the value of feedback; instead, seeing it as having to revisit work that they had previously finished’ or moved on from. Our teachers wanted to give pupils constructive feedback and inspire pupils to improve their work but didn’t want to knock pupils’ self-confidence or enthusiasm for learning. Evidently, we needed to explore how we could normalise the process of receiving feedback and support pupils to welcome advice on how to improve their academic performance. Instead of being disheartened by feedback and becoming agitated that they needed to revisit or make changes to their learning, we wanted pupils to seek out feedback and be constantly striving to adapt their work for it to be the best it could be!

Feedback through the Writing Process

One strategy we have focused on is encouraging pupils to view themselves as authors within the classroom. Through the introduction of the school writing process a number of years ago, we crafted pupils’ beliefs that writing was not a one-off occasion and instead a process of drafting and evaluating until we had a piece of work that we were proud of and demonstrated our high standards. In addition to providing verbal feedback at point of need to pupils, we focused upon embedding group feedback into daily lessons to remove the stigma often associated with evaluating and editing work. We explored how continuous feedback underpins our school’s writing process.

Feedback process

Throughout the writing process, we have multiple opportunities for teachers to identify next steps for pupils. These next steps are then communicated to pupils through their teaching input, allowing children to see the purpose of the feedback and its benefits in improving their writing. For example, after the pupils have written their first draft during the Write it stage, instead of providing written feedback, the teacher acknowledges the pupils’ work and uses this to inform their planning for the upcoming stages in the writing process.

The feedback is shared with groups of pupils verbally in the input of the next lesson. Our approach to reactive planning allows the teacher to move learning on and steer pupils to improving their work by using their feedback to self-edit and self-improve their writing. During the input, the teacher may share a success criteria for editing and model how to use this with a piece of writing, thinking out loud how they will check punctuation errors and review the spelling in the piece. The teacher may also model creating a worked example of a revised sentence by again thinking out loud which sentence to improve and modelling revising this using a specific grammatical structure or improved vocabulary.


KS1: Feedback on varying the repetitive structure of joining clauses with ‘and’ and adding further description and detail to clauses.
KS2: Feedback on the selection of grammatical features to specify and describe

Both of these examples show that this approach to feedback, rather than extensive written marking, encourages the child to evaluate and improve their writing in response to feedback but does not stifle pupils’ independent thought as an author.

How this approach benefits…


The process of the teacher modelling how they would edit and improve their own drafts normalises the need to edit and review work and, as a result, pupils’ feel less disheartened by feedback and see revisiting work and responding to feedback as part of the normal cycle of writing and an authorial behaviour.

In addition, pupils are more engaged and confident to have a go’ throughout the writing process. Pupils who may previously have been reluctant to get their initial ideas down on paper during the write it phase now feel more relaxed during their first draft as they recognise that it does not need to be perfect and that they will have opportunities to revisit and review their work.

Pupils’ independence also improves because of this approach. Rather than receiving a heavily marked draft back that indicates all spelling errors and other miscues, the responsibility lies with the child to develop their work. The child must consider the feedback given during the input and apply it to their own work, still choosing how to edit and revise their writing.


When considering reviewing approaches to marking, teachers and leaders must reflect upon the opportunity cost that it presents. By not spending vast amounts of time providing written teacher feedback on pupils’ written drafts, teachers can re-direct this time to other tasks. At our school, teachers can spend longer planning their teaching inputs, preparing worked examples to use, and considering the best way to model to pupils to move their learning forwards through a reactive planning model after reviewing pupils’ work that day. In addition, a key message from the EEF’s guidance report is that feedback is most effective when it is planned for by the teacher rather than done to appease a marking policy. Our approach to embedding feedback through teaching inputs in the Writing Process provides greater autonomy for teachers to plan how they deliver feedback to pupils resulting in it being more meaningful.

The EEF guidance has removed the need for teachers and leaders to be distracted by which methods are most effective to deliver feedback. Instead, teachers can focus upon what really matters and embed the principles of effective feedback.

More from the Blackpool Research School

Show all news

This website collects a number of cookies from its users for improving your overall experience of the site.Read more