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Research School Network: Feedback and Marking What constitutes good feedback and how can we ensure that feedback improves the student, not just a piece of work?


Feedback and Marking

What constitutes good feedback and how can we ensure that feedback improves the student, not just a piece of work?

by Shotton Hall Research School
on the

Feedback is one of the most effective tools in a teacher’s armoury. With potential benefits of up to 6 months’ additional progress, it has retained its place as one of the highest ranked interventions in the Education Endowment Foundation’s re-launched Teaching and Learning Toolkit. The evidence confirms what many teachers know: feedback matters.

However, what constitutes good feedback and how can we ensure that feedback improves the student, not just a piece of work?

Although feedback can take many forms, in this post, I explain two changes I am making to my own marking after reading the evidence.



Errors vs. Mistakes


The first is to distinguish between mistakes’ and errors’, with the evidence suggesting they should be marked differently.

A mistake occurs when a student gets something wrong, but they usually get it right (e.g. they forget to use a capital letter on one occasion). If a student makes a mistake, it should simply be identified as incorrect. No answer or hints should be given as the student should be able to correct themselves.

An error is something that a student consistently gets wrong and suggests a deeper misunderstanding (e.g. frequently forgetting to use a possessive apostrophe). Here, it is helpful to write a question which directs a student to the underlying misconception. For example, what punctuation does possession need?’, rather than merely correcting the fault, the student reflects on the reasons behind it.



A Targeted Response


A second change concerns the way students respond to feedback; Students must be given the opportunity to respond to feedback in a meaningful way.

For a start, this demands sufficient time. Rather than squeezing it into an unrelated lesson, I now plan dedicated feedback lessons with students and give them plenty of time to improve their work. I also provide models that demonstrate the desired improvements.

In addition, students need specific direction when improving their work. At my school, we provide What Went Wells (WWWs) and Even Better Ifs (EBIs). Taking this further, I now ask students to record their feedback along with the type of task (e.g. descriptive writing). Before starting a similar task in future, they write down the WWW and EBI from last time; the WWW is something to repeat and the EBI serves as an actionable target.

Responding to feedback is taken as seriously as the original task and provides concrete guidance that students internalise and put into practice next time.



Quality over Quantity


This may sound good in theory, but do teachers have the time to consistently provide high quality feedback? Fortunately, the research suggests that we should mark less (in terms of the number of pieces) but better, by providing students with clear targets that they can then act upon. Music to the ears of an English teacher!

Tom Raine

Tom Raine

English Teacher, The Academy at Shotton Hall

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