Providing Efficient and Effective Feedback

Author: Bethany Spencer

Posted: 14 Mar 2018

Estimated time to read: 7 mins

Feedback is fundamental to students’ progression and good classroom management. However, over the years the amount of time teachers spend on providing what they feel is sufficient and necessary feedback has escalated and as a result this is having a huge impact on their workload.

Teachers have fallen victim to common grading myths that put emphasis on how much time should be spent on providing feedback as opposed to how teachers can reduce the time spent on marking whilst still providing effective feedback.

group of students with teacher in computer lab classrom learrning lessons,  get help and support.jpegClassroom teachers are reported to spend 8 hours a week on marking, which is time they can ill afford to spare when you look at just how excessive their workloads are. To help tackle the time drain that is marking and providing feedback, we’ve broken down the myths that schools have fallen victim to, as well as outlining some marking strategies for teachers that will show you how to make grading more effective and also how to save time marking.


Myths around what makes good feedback keep appearing. Some are a cultural change and some are dependant on SLT and their school’s assessment policy.

Myth: There is a link between the quantity of marking and pupil progress.

Truth: There is little evidence to suggest that more marking or highly-detailed marking improves students’ learning outcomes - this myth results in teachers spending time providing extensive written comments on all homework tasks. In fact, there is some evidence which suggests too much written feedback could be detrimental to students - making them become focused on grades rather than their understanding and where they need to or have improved.

Myth: Written feedback is more valuable than verbal feedback.

Truth: A mix of both written and verbal feedback is best, they’re both needed and provide value to students’ progression. Both types of feedback have their strengths and when used alongside one another, are able to guide students clearly and effectively. The idea that written feedback is more valuable than verbal is surprising considering that the quality of existing evidence focused specifically on written marking is low and doesn’t lend itself to the myths that are suggested.

Myth: Ofsted inspectors should be looking for detailed marking and written feedback

Truth: Ofsted and marking are a common misconception. However, there is in fact, no indication given by Ofsted that marking needs to be in any particular format, nor do they provide any guidelines which relate to specific assessment criteria. These are subject to the school and for them to decide, so as opposed to judging the way in which marking is delivered, they are instead looking for marking and feedback that follows the school’s chosen policy and is clear and effective in promoting learning.

Efficient Feedback Techniques for Teachers 

1. Gallery critique

The gallery critique is a different take on peer assessment which involves students moving around the classroom assessing their peers’ work using Ron Berger’s guidelines of feedback - ‘kind, specific, helpful’.

The gallery critique is arguably more effective than traditional peer assessment because it involves more than just one student assessing a piece of work and allocates sufficient time to students to prepare feedback.

In order for the gallery critique to be successful, take into consideration the following:

  • Ensure students are aware that the piece of work they’re completing is going to be peer assessed, this will motivate them to take pride in their work and put more effort into what they’re producing.
  • Outline the marking criteria clearly to students before they undergo assessment and make sure the criteria is student friendly.
  • Allow students to spend a substantial amount of time marking their peers’ work (30-40 minutes) and rotate the pieces they do mark. This way, they’ll have multiple pieces of feedback to take into consideration.
  • After marking is complete, have students write up their goals based on the feedback they’ve received.

The benefits of the gallery critique are that it undoubtedly saves you time, but it also helps students to better understand the marking criteria. In addition to this, it gives their work a new purpose and audience and allows them to see different perspectives on the same task.

2. Live marking

This style of marking lends itself to extensive written pieces, similar to how university students would receive support during the writing of their dissertation. Live marking is a form of verbal feedback that students receive whilst they’re in the midst of an assignment.

Students are allocated time during class to spend with the teachers. During this time, they can discuss ideas and teachers can provide instant feedback. Marking during the completion of a task means that you’re able to steer students on the right track before they’ve finished their assignment which will help them to produce a stronger end result and will require less marking.

3. Verbal Feedback

Providing feedback verbally is a valuable method of formative assessment - it’s ongoing and encourages students to make instant changes that will help their progression, not to mention it’s much less time intensive for you.

Certain subjects lend themselves more naturally to this style of feedback such as PE and Art, however it can be applied to all subjects. Teacher marking stamps can be used to indicate when verbal feedback has been given. The benefits of creating an ongoing dialogue with probing and open questions helps students work towards their success criteria.

4. Merit/demerit feedback

Working with merits or badges is a quick and easy way to communicate feedback for the completion/non-completion of work, effort applied to studies or understanding of a topic. When used consistently as a school-wide points-based system, it encourages good behaviour across each year group. Furthermore, there’s been a rise in the number of online points-based systems that make providing this form of feedback even quicker.

5. Whole Class Feedback Sheets

The premise of a whole class feedback sheet is to give feedback to the entire class on one single A4 sheet as opposed to commenting in each student’s individual work book. By presenting your marking in this way you can save yourself up to 3 hours previously spent giving feedback to your class. The areas you want to include in your feedback sheet are as follows:

  • ‘What Went Well’ or ‘Praise’
  • ‘Misconceptions’ or ‘Confusions’
  • ‘Missing/Incomplete Work’
  • ‘SPAG’
  • ‘Even Better If‘
  • ‘Areas to Work On‘
  • D.I.R.T. Activities (Directed Improvement Reflection Time)

The benefits of using a whole class feedback sheet reach far beyond the time savings you will make - it also gives you a snapshot into whole class progress and you’re more easily able to identify if any learning gaps have occurred.

Download the whole class feedback template

6. Selective/focused marking in place of acknowledgement and full marking

Close/Full: Full marking has its place, but it is paramount that you use this form of marking sparingly as it is not only the most time-consuming, it’s the most critical for students. This style of marking should be used once a term, with feedback provided in a more time-effective and encouraging manner.

Focused: Opting for focused marking as opposed to full makes feedback far more digestible for students - having one area to work and improve on is a manageable task as opposed to all areas of the success criteria. To execute successful focused marking, hone in on an area of a student’s ability that if they work on, is really going to make a difference to their progression and ensure you share this focus with them.

Alternatively, focus on one aspect of the criteria for the entire class and mark work based on this, so areas for improvement are drip fed to them and not overwhelming. This form of marking is effective because it’s manageable for students but also saves you a lot of time in the long-run.

Tick-and-flick: Acknowledgement marking such as the ‘tick-and-flick’ is not worth the time it takes and can instead be given verbally. Flicking through books and giving generic praise comments does not add to student progression, it instead takes up precious time, which you could instead save and apply to feedback that will benefit students, such as focused feedback.

Start saving time today by downloading our free whole-class feedback template here, or download this blog as a PDF.