The Feedback Fiasco: Making Feedback More Manageable

Recently there has been a fast flurry of posts focusing on one thing…FEEDBACK! The debate to what extent we should mark and the frequency of this has dominated many a teachers’ mind and left us all in a flutter. Sadly, there is no clear answer and no magic trick that can categorically clarify this conundrum but, there are things that can help…

  1. Star and EBI: When my school first introduced the STAR/EBI marking policy, I was apprehensive. I found it a little patronising and constricting. However, two years down the line and I am a total convert. For me, an overly verbose English teacher, it has radically cut down my marking time by forcing me to make short and concise comments. Students have seemed to get far more from this, by simplifying the comments into just the essential information and cutting out the unnecessary waffle students are far more likely to read, engage and act on the advice give. PLUS, you get to use a stamper!!!
  2. Verbal Feedback: I like to talk which is probably why this one is a favourite. During the lesson I will travel round and give verbal feedback I stamp students work to verify this and ask them to summarise my comments or to act on it in a green pen to highlight the impact of the feedback.
  3. Margin Feedback: Often marking for me takes such a long time because I leave detail comments in the margin as well as a large comment at the end. In a way to save time, only write comments in the margin and make students right a summative comment based on what you have said. Not only does this save you some time, but, it actually ensures that students are reading the comments that you have left. Conversely, only write a summative comment and ask students to write their own margin comments based on what you have written.
  4. Nummrical Marking: Another way of saving time and avoiding repeating yourself throughout marking is to write simple comments at the end of a piece of work and put a number after each comment. Then place numbers throughout the work to correspond with the end comments so students can see where they have made those successes and areas for improvements without out you having to write out the same comment again and again and again.
  5. Checklists: Another quicker approach to marking is to make a checklist of common comments and tick and cross which features they have met, this can still be personalised by adding additional comments but it prevents you from repeatedly writing out common feedback features on loads of students’ work.
  6. Dot Marking: this is from @teachlikeachampion‘s blog, using coloured stickers, as you move round the room looking if students work, put a coloured sticker on their work if you stop an area. This forces students to look through and reflect on their own work and identify their own errors.
  7. + – = Marking: This one I love and sadly, yet again, I can’t take credit as I found it on @learningspy‘s blog. Essentially this involves marking in depth at the start of the unit, but, as students become accustomed to the assessment criteria, just add a plus, minus or equals sign to highlight if they have made progress from their last piece of work. This can also be a good way to respond to students’ improvements in light of the need for there to be a ‘conversation’ between teachers and students in their books.
  8. Peer Assessment: This is an obvious one but is one that can have little value if students are not trained and taught how to do it properly. I spend a lot of time on this with new classes and even spend time marking the feedback at times instead of the actual work. I like to use grids like the one below to help ensure students are able to give effective feedback. Peer Feedback Sheet
  9. Just Mark One: Instead of rushing through a class of 30’s looming pile of essays and giving substandard feedback, sometimes it can be best to mark just one or at least just a couple. These can then be shared with the class and discussed with the class to give a fair understanding of common successes and areas for improvements, students can then apply this by marking their own, or a peer’s work.
  10. Only Mark a Little: Where possible, focus marking on just one small section of a text (especially useful for essay based subjects) to cut down your marking time. Give in-depth feedback on one small section and then ask students to finish off the rest.

And when you’re feeling guilt ridden because you haven’t marked your books as frequently as you might have liked, remember…

“It is the nature, rather than the amount, that is critical when giving students feedback.”

Black and Wiliam (2002)


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