Research School Network: Why you might be getting feedback wrong! (part 1)

Why you might be getting feedback wrong! (part 1)

by Bradford Research School
on the

According to the EEF Toolkit:


Providing effective feedback is challenging. Research suggests that it should:

  • be specific, accurate and clear;
  • compare what a learner is doing right now with what they have done wrong before;
  • encourage and support further effort and be given sparingly so that it is meaningful;
  • provide specific guidance on how to improve and not just tell students when they are wrong; and
  • be supported with effective professional development for teachers.


One form of feedback that is particularly misunderstood is written feedback, or marking.

What do we mean by marking? Marking: writing comments on children’s work for the purpose of giving feedback.

There are lots of myths surrounding marking that might mean you’re not doing it right.


What are these marking myths? Using the EEF’s report A marked improvement? – A review of the evidence on written marking (April 2016) let’s see whether our beliefs about marking are backed by sound evidence:

Myth 1: marking is evidence-based 

Key finding: there is a lack of evidence currently

We would be very happy if people took the current lack of evidence on marking as the key finding of the report… As far as we are aware, the EEF’s report is the first to state this finding so clearly, so far from being an admission”, if this point is widely understood by both schools and researchers it feels like it would be an excellent outcome.” (

Most studies consider impact over a short period, with very few identifying evidence on long-term outcomes.” (page 5)

Myth 2: feedback = marking

Key finding: quickly corrected mistakes help learners to improve but marking seems most likely to lead to progress

No studies appear to have compared the impact of written dialogue to verbal dialogue… and it is not clear why written dialogue should necessarily be preferable.” (page 18)

studies of verbal feedback… indicate that learners find it easier to improve if their mistakes are corrected quickly.” (page 22)


Marking by teachers is just one form of feedback BUT “…marking offers an opportunity to provide pupils with the clear and specific information that the wider evidence base on feedback suggests is most likely to lead to pupil progress.” (page 6)

It is possible that when done well marking can have a real impact, but that other forms of giving feedback have very clear benefits too.

Myth 3: marking is time consuming

Actually, truth: marking is time consuming

Key finding: schools may over-value quantity of marking

Marking was identified as the single biggest contributor to unsustainable workload in the Department for Education’s 2014 Workload Challenge – a consultation which gathered more than 44,000 responses from teachers, support staff and others.”

The burden of marking on teachers was also noted by the 2016 report of the Independent Teacher Workload Review Group, Eliminating unnecessary workload around marking’. It suggested that providing written feedback on pupils’ work has become disproportionately valued by schools, and the quantity of feedback has too often become confused with the quality.

(page 6)

When efforts to recruit and retain teachers in areas like Bradford school leaders should be very mindful of workload and wellbeing – feedback policies which over-emphasise written feedback could contribute to the numbers of teachers leaving the profession.

Myth 4: Ofsted require a particular kind of marking

Key Finding: Ofsted should look for consistency with school’s own policy

In 2015, the schools inspectorate Ofsted confirmed that an assessment of marking would be included in inspections, but that decisions about the type, volume and frequency of marking completed would be at the discretion of individual schools.” (page 6)


Ofsted recognises that marking and feedback to pupils, both written and oral, are important aspects of assessment. However, Ofsted does not expect to see any specific frequency, type or volume of marking and feedback; these are for the school to decide through its assessment policy. Marking and feedback should be consistent with that policy, which may cater for different subjects and different age groups of pupils in different ways, in order to be effective and efficient in promoting learning.”

While inspectors will consider how written and oral feedback is used to promote learning, Ofsted does not expect to see any written record of oral feedback provided to pupils by teachers.

If it is necessary for inspectors to identify marking as an area for improvement for a school, they will pay careful attention to the way recommendations are written to ensure that these do not drive unnecessary workload for teachers.”


Myth 5: children need to know what level/​grade their work is

Key finding: grades can distract from other feedback

No evidence was found showing that only awarding a grade, with no formative comment, leads to pupil progress…”

…a number of studies suggest that grades can reduce the impact of formative comments by becoming the main focus of learners’ attention.” 

(page 10)

In part two of this article we look at four more myths that surround marking including marking in detail, its impact on progress, dialogic marking and how best to mark errors.

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