According to Hattie, feedback provided via marking has an effect size of 0.791, with eight additional months’ progress potential for students2. The albatross like burden of marking3 means that good feedback is often difficult, with poor quality, generic, comments frequently seen4 & 5.
Students often do not act upon feedback and fail to make progress6 & 7, as they may not understand actions to improve based on vague comments like ‘explain this’; guidance steps on how to ‘explain’ have not been given4, 6 & 8. Marking individual student work therefore has limited effectiveness9 and is a high teacher effort, low student impact method that Kirby11 and Facer12 liken to a hornet.
Additionally, the DfE13 marking review noted how it has ‘become common practice for teachers to provide extensive written comments on every piece of work when there is very little evidence that this improves student outcomes in the long term, especially when ‘driving pupil progress… can often be achieved without extensive written dialogue or comments’.
The authors also reported that the ‘obsessive nature, depth, and frequency of marking was having a negative effect on teachers’ ability to prepare and deliver outstanding lessons’6. Therefore, it is important to find a low effort, high impact method of feedback that meets DfE guidelines that are not detrimental for teachers’ workload.
Low effort high impact
Whole class feedback (WCF) – a low effort, high impact, ‘butterfly’ method11 – is a solution. Most work that exists on whole class feedback (WCF) is published on teachers’ blogs where they reflect on the effectiveness of this strategy, both for students and teacher workload – the pros and cons are outlined in Table 1.
The premise of WCF is outlined in Jones & Essery6, Sherrington & Stafford14, and Percival7, amongst others: work is read through whilst making notes on a feedback sheet, with common errors, things done well etc. recorded. Nothing is written on work itself, though good work can be rewarded with a star in the margin so that a student can read out to the class as an example.
The time saved on marking is used to create feedback tasks, which are added to the sheet. Christodoulou15 recommends that the feedback tasks should involve ‘a recipe, not a statement’ that is ‘specific and actionable’16 i.e. students know how to progress with more specific comments than ‘explain this’. The sheet is photocopied for students’ books and feedback should be provided as close to when the students completed the original task as possible, so they can remember the task and the maximum benefit is felt.
For the initial trial a commercial Doodle ‘Class Mark’ template20 was used with two year 8 classes during Michaelmas term 2019. Overall, WCF was a much quicker method to mark a whole class set of assessments. However, the template is too informal and requires adjusting for Sevenoaks School. Some ‘boxes’ could be omitted, whilst others could be expanded to provide space for better quality feedback tasks for students to complete.
To develop a template, a focus group was held with year 8 to gather their views. Overall this was positive as students do not mind receiving feedback using WCF; occasionally students were unaware of what specific feedback applied to them; and students would prefer a space for the class average mark, and space to write their mark so they know how they compare and ‘how much they need to do to improve’.
An audit of current use of WCF at Sevenoaks was subsequently conducted. Various types of feedback that could be classified as WCF are used by a variety of teachers across a range of departments. None use a template and it is usually written out on an ad-hoc basis. All teachers still write individual comments on students’ work and use WCF in addition, thus believing WCF hinders workload.
This reflects how reluctant teachers are to stop writing comments on student work – as they perceive this to be more accountable to observers21 & 12. Encouraging a switch to WCF is a huge cultural shift for teacher and student alike. The audit was interesting to see what others do, though has not informed the creation of the template much as no other teacher uses one. It has, however, reinforced that WCF at Sevenoaks School will be a big change.
A Sevenoaks class feedback template was subsequently created drawing on experience of using the Doodle template, alongside exemplar templates from other teachers published online. The template was used with two year 9 and two year 8 Geography classes during Lent term 2020 – use in Summer term was curtailed by COVID-19.
Initially the template contained space for what went well (WWW) and even better if (EBI) comments, feedforward tasks, and space for duplication of an excellent example of the piece of work which students could analyse to assist their understanding of the feedback and develop their metacognition. The template was revised with usage (figure 1), combining the WWW and EBI boxes into a ‘feedback’ box with statements that could be interpreted either positively or negatively dependant on whether they have a tick (WWW) or hashtag (EBI) next to them on student work.
This is as the WWW and EBI boxes were essentially duplicates of each other, thus still adding to workload. Initially WWW and EBI points were just bullet pointed, and students had to work out what feedback applied to them. Based on the focus group feedback, this evolved to have numbered points, with the corresponding number being annotated on the student’s work.
This was because some, especially lower ability, students found it difficult to engage with the feedback and work out what applied to them. The template does not have space for the average class mark as evidence suggests students will fixate on marks, rather than feedback, if given grades.
Whilst this is purely empirical evidence, after using the template for several months, students appear to be better at interrogating their own practise, self-assess more, and perform better in assessments than if they had not used WCF. Year 9 student feedback was that the Sevenoaks template was clear, well formatted, and stood out in their folders, which they liked.
Most students did not mind WCF. From a teacher’s perspective, WCF cuts down workload considerably enabling saved time to be spent on producing a higher quality feedback lesson, thus aiding student progress. After initial ‘set up’ and familiarisation with WCF students are quite self-sufficient with knowing what to do when they get an A5 light blue WCF sheet in class. Due to printing on coloured paper, teachers no longer worry about accountability in the eyes of observers as marking and feedback is easily recognised in folders.
The findings of this research project were published in the school’s Innovate journal for teaching and learning in October 2020. Whilst this is a small-scale research project that was curtailed by COVID-19, it was recommended that more teaching staff start using this template, or their own version of WCF, and work on developing meaningful feedforward tasks.
In an ideal scenario the use of WCF would be rolled out across the entire school so students become familiar with the approach and make progress, and staff workload is reduced. However, as previously mentioned, WCF is a huge cultural shift so this will not happen overnight. Additionally, teachers should not have to use WCF; it is just part of a teacher’s toolkit and individual practitioners should utilise what works best for them whilst trying to moderate their workload and become more research informed.
Elen Harris is a Geography Teacher at Sevenoaks School
1Hattie, J.,(2012) Visible learning for teachers: maximising impact on learning. Abingdon. Routledge. Referenced in Fletcher-Wood, H., (2018) Guiding student improvement without individual feedback. (Online). Available at: https://impact.chartered.college/article/fletcher-wood-student-improvement-without-individual-feedback/ (Accessed 17.12.2019).
2Education Endowment Foundation., (2017) Sponsored Content: A marked improvement? (Online) Available at: https://impact.chartered.college/article/eef-marked-improvement/ (Accessed 13.01.2020).
3Kirby, J., (2013) What if you marked every book, every lesson? (Online). Available at: https://pragmaticreform.wordpress.com/2013/11/02/every-book-every-lesson/ (Accessed 13.01.2020).
4Christodoulou, D., (2019a) Whole class feedback: saviour or fad? (Online). Available at: https://blog.nomoremarking.com/whole-class-feedback-saviour-or-fad-5c54c463a4d0 (Accessed 25.09.19).
5Foster, R., (2017) On valuable feedback that supports teacher wellbeing. (Online). Available at: https://thelearningprofession.com/2017/03/30/on-valuable-feedback-that-supports-teacher-wellbeing/ (Accessed 15.01.2020).
6Jones, A., & Essery, M., (2018) Q: How can we reduce teacher workload without affecting the quality of marking? A: Whole-class feedback. (Online). Available at: https://my.chartered.college/2018/10/how-reduce-teacher-workload-quality-marking-whole-class-feedback/ (Accessed 13.01.2020).
7Percival, A., (2017) No written marking. Job done. (Online). Available at: http://primarypercival.weebly.com/blog/no-written-marking-job-done (Accessed 13.01.2020).
8Kluger, A. N., & DeNisi, A. (1996). ‘The effects of feedback interventions on performance: A historical review, a meta-analysis, and a preliminary feedback intervention theory’ in Psychological Bulletin, 119(2), 254-284. Referenced in Jones, A., & Essery, M., (2018) Q: How can we reduce teacher workload without affecting the quality of marking? A: Whole-class feedback. (Online). Available at: https://my.chartered.college/2018/10/how-reduce-teacher-workload-quality-marking-whole-class-feedback/ (Accessed 13.01.2020).
9Elliott, V., Baird, J., et al., (2016) A marked improvement? A review of the evidence on written marking. Oxford. Education Endowment Foundation referenced in Fletcher-Wood, H., (2018) Guiding student improvement without individual feedback. (Online). Available at: https://impact.chartered.college/article/fletcher-wood-student-improvement-without-individual-feedback/ (Accessed 17.12.2019).
11Kirby, J., (2015) Hornets and butterflies: how to reduce workload. (Online) Available at: https://pragmaticreform.wordpress.com/2015/06/06/hornets-and-butterflies-how-to-reduce-workload/ (Accessed 17.12.2019).
12Facer, J., (2016b) Marking is futile. In Battle Hymn of the Tiger Teachers, The Michaela Way. Edited by Katherine Birbalsingh. Published 2016 by John Catt Educational Ltd, Woodbridge.
13Department for Education, (2016) Eliminating unnecessary workload around marking. Report of the independent teacher review work group. (Online) Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/511256/Eliminating-unnecessary-workload-around-marking.pdf (Accessed 17.12.2019).
14Sherrington, T., & Stafford, S., (2019) Effective feedback: whole class marking. (Online). Available at: https://my.chartered.college/2019/05/effective-feedback-whole-class-marking/ (Accessed 13.01.2020).
15Christodoulou, D., (2019b) Whole class feedback: a recipe, not a statement (Online). Available at: https://blog.nomoremarking.com/whole-class-feedback-a-recipe-not-a-statement-e2a6704ea434 (Accessed 17.12.2019).
16Christodoulou, D., (2019c) Whole class feedback: improve the pupil, not just the work (Online). Available at: https://blog.nomoremarking.com/whole-class-feedback-improve-the-pupil-not-just-the-work-53ebf74f39f6 (Accessed 17.12.2019).
17Race, P., (n.d.) Using feedback to help students learn. (Online). Available at: https://www.jcu.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0016/104209/jcu_121468.pdf (Accessed 17.12.2019).
18Enser, M., (2017) Making a fuss of feedback. (Online). Available at: https://teachreal.wordpress.com/2017/10/10/making-a-fuss-of-feedback/ (Accessed 13.01.2020).
19Thornton, G., (2016) Marking Crib Sheet & Whole Class Feedback (Online). Available at: https://mrthorntonteach.com/2016/04/08/marking-crib-sheet/ (Accessed 15.11.2019).
20Doodle., (2019) Class mark template (Online). Available at: https://www.doodle.ac/products/class-mark-pad?variant=30588875341927 (Accessed 20.09.19).
21Facer, J., (2016a) Giving feedback the ‘Michaela’ way. (Online) Available at: https://readingallthebooks.c