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Research School Network: Feedback: Turn them into detectives Simon takes us through a detective task which he uses as an effective post-feedback activity in Business Studies


Feedback: Turn them into detectives

Simon takes us through a detective task which he uses as an effective post-feedback activity in Business Studies

by Blackpool Research School
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During a recent CPD session we explored the recommendations from the recent Teacher Feedback to Improve Pupil Learning guidance report. Recommendation 3 stood out to me in particular, it states:

‘Plan for how pupils will receive and use feedback’

Within this, we explored the importance of considering how our feedback can influence important factors like pupil motivation, self-confidence and their trust in the teacher as well as the importance of thinking how students can use the feedback effectively. One particular strategy which gets students to actively participate in using feedback is using Detective tasks’. These are tasks that ask students to take keywords, definitions, passages of work or model answers to help them independently correct any mistakes in a piece of work. Detective tasks are highly effective but need to be carefully planned so that they are tailored to the pupils’ level of understanding.

Here is an example of a detective task which I designed for my Y11 Business class:

Detective task: Find the mistakes

The students are given this sheet and are then instructed to read each statement to identify whether the statement is correct, incorrect or partly correct. They will then write in the box the correct answer to the statement or, if correct, note it as true. The statements have been chosen to reflect the common mistakes which were found in a recent assessment activity.


Once they have identified what they think are the correct answers the teacher can then formatively feedback to them by telling the individual if they have done it correctly. In particular I used statements such as:

  • You have not found all the evidence in box 3
  • You have found 2 out of 3 incorrect parts”
  • Are you sure you have corrected that one in full?”

At the end the students have the chance to then help one another either individually or as a whole class.

How this activity benefited my…

1. Engagement: The students were keen to find all the incorrect answers so much so that they became frustrated. They used this potent energy and turned it into a really positive experience. This helped to build their resilience. Once others in the group found answers they built a competitive atmosphere that pushed the group to complete the task.

2. Actively learning – Of course this was the aim but I feel that the structure of the activity made the students have to really think, not the passive copying of notes type of thinking or even the using the exam technique’ type of thinking. This activity made them have to consider whether the statement, which looked correct, was in fact the correct answer. 

For example, here the students needed to consider what Sole Traders are and Limited Liability before they could agree with the statement or correct it. The students also have to really consider the answers that were correct; often becoming suspicious of those answers.


3. Used prior knowledge – The students needed to have a wider understanding of the subject than simply the keyword. I found that the students started to explain that the reference made was linked to another keyword. For example,


Students began to explain that the Operations function was responsible for the product, they did make the product but it was not the job of Operations to pay and recruit staff. They were able to expand their knowledge by explaining that pay and recruitment were the responsibility of the Human Resources function.

4. Made them look at the detail – students had to really read the statement and the action of formatively marking the work reminded them of the importance of really reading the statement. By doing this the students were reminded that they need to read the exam question in full; they needed to find the detail in the question.

5. Created a basis for revision – The students were also able to use this activity to identify their gaps in knowledge. The students were therefore reminded of what topics they need to add to their revision lists.


  • The activity did not take too much time to plan. Many of the keywords were already available and only needed minor changes to create the detective element of the task. This could simply be done using keywords lists that are already available.
  • The task could be completed as a self-marking tool with a correct version of the task being available.
  • This could be used as a self-quiz activity at the start of a lesson. The student could be given a small number of these to correct.

Simon Mitchell - Teacher of Business Studies

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