24 Apr 2018

Feedback Day 3 – how do we implement and sustain change?

Feedback Day 3 – how do we implement and sustain change?

Today saw Day 3 of our Effective Feedback to Maximise Progress course which focused on how we sustain effective feedback for long term progress. We were delighted to welcome Dr Velda Elliott and Dr Jenni Ingram from the University of Oxford, authors of A Marked Improvement, to help facilitate this session.

We started the day with a brief review of the intersessional task, which had involved delegates networking with other colleagues at their school to discuss their learning from the course and how to use this in their setting. As ever, the discussion and engagement with this activity was fantastic, and it was interesting to hear the direction in which different schools were going to take their learning from the course.

A Marked Improvement:

This lead neatly onto our keynote from Velda and Jenni, reflecting on A Marked Improvement two years on and summarising what the evidence says on written feedback. We had referenced this publication a number of times in the previous two days of the course so it was fantastic to hear about it from two of its authors.

We had a timely reminder of the research underpinning A Marked Improvement. A quick summary is:

Grades – A number of studies show that students who get grades as well as or instead of comments achieve less well on follow up work and are less motivated (Butler, 1988).

Creating a dialogue – There have been no studies on triple impact marking, but genuine dialogue does appear to be useful (Werderick 2006).

Pupil response – Almost 60% of secondary teachers use DIRT in class (or something like it) on most or all pieces of work (Elliott et al, 2016) and unless students engage with/ respond to feedback its effectiveness is small (Nicol, 2010).

Targets – Short term targets are best – next lesson, not next two weeks (Conte & Hinze, 2000).

Thoroughness – Some EFL studies suggest selective focusing on one or two types of errors is effective in helping students tackle those errors; others suggest correcting all errors but only in part of the work/ a very short piece.

Speed – Short term targets are best – next lesson, not next two weeks (Conte & Hinze, 2000).

Frequency – There is very little evidence on this but marking is a way for students to see that teachers are invested in their progress (Blanchard, 2002).

Velda also identified some key pieces of research that have appeared since the publication of A Marked Improvement, in particular a project undertaken in Wigan in a consortium of schools focusing on reducing unnecessary workload related to marking. All the schools involved in the research followed the guidance that all marking should be meaningful, manageable and motivational (MMM) and should serve a single purpose – to advance pupil progress and outcomes. Feedback policies in the schools were based on this. The findings of this research suggest that the new feedback processes significantly reduced the burden on teachers, improved teacher morale, and improved teaching and learning. There was also a dramatic reduction in time spent marking and recording, and an improvement in learning processes and pupil outcomes. Definitely worth a read and can be found here.

Feedback Policies:

The session after break was facilitated by Jenni and Velda, and focused on feedback and marking policies. Each delegate had been asked to bring their school’s policy with them and the first activity involved looking at these policies and providing feedback on the policy using a set of criteria. The ‘owner’ of the policy was not allowed to comment on their own policy – although I am not sure how many people managed to stick to this rule! They were asked to consider whether the policies provided an answer to some key questions, including:

– How should marking be done?

– What should be marked?

– How is the implementation of the policy monitored?

Unsurprisingly, the discussions resulting from this task were fascinating! The overwhelming theme was that all of the policies were overly wordy, overly prescriptive in some areas yet exceptionally vague in others. Some policies appeared to promote excessive workload, while others had clearly considered the implications of workload and what was being asked of teaching staff. A key question was who was the policy written for and a clear distinction between policy and practice was identified.

This lead to an ‘ideal world’ consideration of what an assessment and feedback policy should look like. A dominant theme involved thinking about your policy on two levels: having one level which outlines the key principles that underpin the policy and then a second level which clearly outlines how this is then operationalised and put into practice. It was also heartening to hear that there was a consensus that feedback policies should be evidence based. Ultimately, it was felt that there needed to be a balance between whole school consistency in approach, but with sufficient flexibility to enable different faculties to embed their own approaches to feedback.


This session focused on how to effectively implement new ideas into our schools, using the EEF Guidance Report Putting Evidence to Work: A School’s Guide to Implementation. As Sir Kevan Collins, CEO of the EEF says, ‘Generating evidence can only take us so far. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how great an educational idea or intervention is on paper; what really matters is how it manifests itself in the day-to-day lived reality of schools.’

We started by considering the 6 stages of the implementation guide, with groups summarising the key ideas from each section and then discussing on their tables. The stages which the report details are:

• Foundations – setting the environment for good implementation.
• Explore – define the problem you want to solve and identify appropriate programmes or practices.
• Prepare – Create a clear implementation plan, judge the readiness and prepare staff and resources.
• Deliver – Support staff, monitor progress, solve problems and adapt strategies as the approach is used for the first time.
• Sustain – Plan for sustaining and scaling intervention from the outset and continuously acknowledge and nurture its use.

Delegates were then able to consider how the implementation guidance could be used to implement changes to feedback policies using Alex Quigley’s blog.

As the Guidance Report states: ‘Too often the who, why, where, when, and how are overlooked, meaning implementation risks becoming an add-on task expected to be tackled on top of the day-to-day work. As a result, projects initiated with the best of intentions can fade away as schools struggle to manage these competing priorities.’

We have really enjoyed planning, preparing and delivering this course and it has been a pleasure to work with so many colleagues from other schools in the region, sharing ideas and research. We have received such great feedback from our delegates, with one stating: ‘An excellent three day workshop – well-presented, great speakers and plenty of food for thought (and implementation!)’. A big thank you to all who attended and got involved in the discussions and activities!