Research School Network: Whole class feedback: a primary case study Laying the foundations for effective feedback

Whole class feedback: a primary case study

Laying the foundations for effective feedback

by Huntington Research School
on the

Six years ago, we changed our marking policy here at St Matthew’s Catholic Primary. We moved away from the traditional approach of writing feedback in books and moved towards whole-class verbal marking and feedback. You can read about the changes made here:

Since then, based on the evidence available, we have further strengthened and refined our policy, as we felt our new policy was potentially limiting and restricting towards pupils. Issues we discussed in relation to this included:

What is the purpose of the feedback pro forma and is the pro forma limiting the feedback being delivered?
Is the approach of whole-class feedback removing the individuality of a pupil?
Is the quantity of feedback being delivered too large?

We took each of the questions put to us and dived deeper. We soon began to understand that the pro forma did have the potential to restrict us. The titled boxes (spelling, presentation, strengths, focus for redraft) arguably narrowed our thinking and most staff agreed that they would often mark pieces of work focusing only on the specifics titled on the pro-forma: specifics that often focused on technicalities rather than composition.

As a staff, we also questioned whether individuals were being restricted and limited if their particular misconception was not enough to make it to whole-class level. What happened then? Was it ever addressed or was it swept under the carpet until more children made a similar mistake? How many mistakes were needed until it became a whole-class problem? And would putting a numeral to that question make the policy become a tedious uninformed approach which we were trying to avoid?

It was when we came to discuss when feedback should be delivered and how much should be delivered in a session that we consulted the evidence again. I consulted the EEF Guidance Report on Feedback and analysed the recommendations. Recommendations 1 – 3 discusses principles that promote effective feedback. We observed that too often teachers have too much feedback to give and recommendation 1 – lay the foundations for effective feedback – was perhaps a suggestion as to why. If initial instruction is of high-quality, then it will reduce the amount of heavy lifting feedback needs to do. The phrase get it right from the start’ became our new slogan.

We decided to make the changes to our feedback policy a school priority. Writing is on our school-improvement plan, and strengthening our marking policy would further support this. A series of professional development sessions were planned where evidence, principles and modelled examples were shared. We looked at one principle per session and staff would go away and experiment strengthening that particular area of their practice. Some weeks it did not go so well, and there would be reflection time with a buddy to discuss why not. By doing so, we felt staff began to understand it is by embedding strong principles that feedback becomes effective. We wanted staff to be in control of the methods through which they chose to act out these principles. Staff were free to trial these out themselves and see what works best for their class. Ultimately, this has led to greater buy-in from staff.

So, what has the impact been so far? We are still very much on a journey with this and are nowhere near the finished product. This might well be because we are using experimental methods to find what best suits our school. So far, we have identified when conducting book looks that more misconceptions on an individual level have been addressed. There is a shared understanding that weaker instruction will result in greater feedback needed. And we no longer use structured pro-forma. And have we missed it? No. How do SLT know teachers are marking? There’s obvious progress in both children’s written work and a clear understanding from when you talk to them.

Our next focus is on helping children understand what they have achieved in a lesson and what success looks like. We anticipate this principle will be the most challenging of them all. Teachers are constantly looking for ways to improve pupil’s work and perhaps this understandable desire to look for things that can be better means we sometimes do not focus on their successes and strengths enough. Ensuring children are aware of what they are good at is our next important step.

Sophie Law is a Year 6 Teacher at St Matthew’s Catholic Primary in Bradford and an Evidence Lead in Education for Huntington Research School

More from the Huntington 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