Stop writing feedback comments…..and see what happens!

We are constantly trying out new ideas to ease workload and marking/feedback is always one area that my colleagues are keen to swop and share ideas on. I know that others have the same concerns and that our huge blogs of shared practice are by far the most read, borrowed from and commented upon that we have published externally. I’m not going to put links in this post as they are all on our web-site and we are moving on at a rate of knots anyway.

Over the Whit holiday I decided that it was time to try to suggest that we made a positive move towards trialling non written feedback. We had played at it with some great ideas already running and we had shared blogs from other schools such as Michaela to look at ideas from elsewhere whilst also setting up a well-being group and trying to reduce workload in key areas such as data collection. I won’t prescribe marking and feedback rigid policies and prefer that individuals/faculties create and design what works best for them, however I did issue a challenge, with prizes of course, to all who would trial feedback without written comments from themselves. Blessing given to anarchy! Not really, it was just extending what we were already trialling and my super AHT colleague Lizzy [@lizzy_francis] explained the idea at morning briefing with a much clearer presentation than my initial excited ramblings.

We had already share the DFE marking guidance, contributed to the EEF ‘a marked improvement’ review and Lizzy reminded staff of the latter’s main findings [although far more detailed research is to come]




Could we gather evidence that we could mark better without relying heavily on written feedback from us? Probably not in such a short time and without control groups and so on, but this was a quick taster of what we could possibly work on after September if the brief trial showed potential.




Colleagues, Lizzy or I could seek feedback from the students and ideas were to be shared at our breakfast jams, learning hub celebrations, research conference and in our book looks.


Our subject leader for history, Greg and Beth, 1 of our research leads shared the ideas they had been trialling at this first meeting to offer some basic ideas. Greg had been developing a crib sheet that he would complete when looking through his books so that he could address misconceptions and good learning with the whole class before DIRT. He was still struggling not to give in to adding written comments in the books as well at this point-it is seriously hard for teachers to stop doing what they have become so accustomed to! More of crib sheets and their impact later.


Greg has also trialled and shared some other ideas both internally and on social media where he has worked with many other historians to set up a network of collaboration that is a huge support to the PD of those involved.







As I mentioned, I do tease Greg because he does find it difficult not to add his own comments in conjunction with either peer/self-critique or crib sheets. Greg is in his 2nd year of teaching and even for someone with a couple of years in the classroom, the ingrained desire to write to the students is difficult to move away from. It is equally difficult for the students to accept getting their books back without expected dialogue in them. I’ll never impose 1 way of feedback as a straightjacket but the trials do have me intrigued and I need to see far more evidence from our own and other trials to make some definitive statements about effective methodology [if it ever exists!]


Beth’s idea is explained on her slide and again was the starter for what was to follow.


Beth extended her quick talk with these explanations;

I’ve attached some examples of the exit questions that we have been doing in Maths. This has really saved me time whilst also giving me a better overview of the students’ understanding of topics.

The Exit Questions come at the end of a lesson – or sometimes a series of lessons where we have studied a programme of topics e.g. transformations.

 Students mark and correct their own class work – but the exit question is marked by myself.

The example below is from a lesson with 8-1. We had been learning how to estimate the mean and other averages from a grouped frequency table. The exit question was given to all students in the class. They were asked to complete it on their own and not to panic and leave questions out if they weren’t sure. This helped to ensure that I gained a true insight into their understanding. Most students were confident – however a couple made errors which I then corrected. Students read my corrections at the start of the next lesson and in some cases attempted another question to consolidate the skills. I was also able to get around the class to give some verbal feedback whilst they were completing their 5 a day.


I did have to write a question for a handful of pupils who needed extra practice – I could save time by printing (more later). But on the whole this really saved me a lot of time whilst giving me a much better insight into the students’ understanding.


I have also used exit questions in conjunction with our STAR marking.

Students completed the exit question and used it to decide which area of transformations they would like to practice more. As always they can ask for an extra challenge as part of their STAR.


This time I printed the questions and stuck them into books – again saving time whilst ensuring students get an individual question to target their need.

Students studied the 4 areas of transformations. They pick one to target. So printing – wise I only have to print copies of 4 questions plus a challenge question. But the marking is heavily reduced.


 The yellow box below is used in order to identify a particular mistake/misconception. Students then get a second attempt at the question during DIRT time. Again, I can get round and give students verbal feedback whilst they complete their 5 a day. I’m going to develop this further and make it easier for myself by “nicking” Greg’s idea of a crib sheet to ensure I don’t forget anything/miss anyone out and give praise where needed.


Sarah, our subject leader for English, sent me her comments and ideas.

My trial was to only use self-assessment and peer-assessment with HA students.  No teacher marking took place.  Model answers were used to allow students to peer / self-assess their work in comparison to A* models.

As we don’t award grades the feedback / assessment was to be purely skills based.

Self – assessment is red pen and frequently students has to use our dept. marking codes to annotate their work or highlight where they had used specific skills.

Peer-assessment is purple pen and students had to set WWW and EBIs after reading A* model answers again no grades were used only skills referred to.

I trialled this with a year 10 set 1 class. At first they were horrified that I wouldn’t be marking their books by awarding arrows. However, they are much more competent at peer and self-assessing and understand how to use top band skills effectively now. Many students automatically started to annotate model answers with dept. codes without being asked to do so and they are now able to confidently offer constructive feedback and critique each other’s work in quite a sophisticated way.

This trial meant students were actually having to think about what they really felt they need to work on. As a dept. we will be moving to a lot more peer and self-assessment next year, especially at KS4 and teachers will only be ‘grading’ exam pieces every half term for years 10 and 11.

I hope this makes sense – the photos should make it clear.

Sarah’s work with marking codes was shared in the EEF booklet and if you are interested is here in a presentation she gave at our Research Conference and for the Sefton Heads and researchED at York. Whilst others are interested in the workload issues, they were perhaps more interested in how Sarah had linked her marking codes to a much quicker and very specific, thus more effective, method of tracking, recording and monitoring which aspects of their English learning the students needed more support with-individually and across classes or year groups.

 MCHS Marking Feedback Research Day – Sarah Cun…





Katie, another of our research leads and an English teacher shared her summer idea.

My trial was to only use self-assessment with students. No teacher marking, model answers or peer-assessment were to be used. This self-assessment required them to annotate their work, using the success criteria for WWW and then set themselves an unlimited number of targets that they knew they needed to address. No grades were used.

I trialled this with a year 9 set 1 class who hated the idea of me not marking their books- there was a lot of complaining initially! However, after doing this regularly I found that they engaged with the success criteria more willingly and felt that this method was making them more self-reliant rather than turning to me for an EBI. Students agreed that it was clear to them what they needed to do and how to build on and improve their own targets.

Using their self-assessment and EBI comments, students were asked to identify a section of their work that, after marking it with their annotations, they felt could be improved. Students drew a box around this work and then improved it at the end, aiming to include more of the success criteria within it. I felt that this allowed them to realise it was possible to improve when focusing and self-assessing properly.

This trial meant students were actually having to think about what they really felt they need to work on. The fact they knew I wasn’t marking anything also meant that if they didn’t do this properly that they could jeopardise their progress which was an incentive for them to self-assess to a high standard (although this may not always work for a low ability or less motivated class). An added benefit to this was that students became so accustomed to the success criteria that they began to use marking codes when giving themselves feedback which is helpful in terms of them being able to engage fully with my code marking in the future.

My only reservation with the trial was the limitation in terms of being able to use model answers. I feel that using models would have benefitted the self-assessment process rather than distracting from it.






Hannah trialled something slightly different in English and told me;

My trial was to give a sheet of whole class feedback (what we were doing well as a class and what we needed to do next as a class) . (to clarify- the one sheet was for the entire class and no comments were written on their work!) The students then used the overall class feedback sheet (it was photocopied for everyone) 

 I really liked it because we could have a good discussion together before considering targets. It also really helped me address gaps for planning as they seemed to jump out far clearer to me.  

The kids were not sold on it at all (I was disappointed about this!) – 2 out of 26 found it useful and they all preferred a traditional method of individual comments.

I wonder if I can adapt this now so that the students will feel that it is an effective way of doing this.

Examples of Hannah’s trial can be seen below.





sb87Emma, our subject leader for geography shared her thoughts and idea.

Here is a standard lesson I have done with year 7 – they have used the marking criteria and assessment criteria as a structure and then will self and peer assess their work – from that I can scan their work see how they have got on as they will be doing all the investigation into whether they and their peers deserve different BSG levels for each Skill and must highlight this on the mark scheme giving them a visual representation of how they have achieved their final award. From this I could develop it further if I wanted and use it as a basis to verbal feedback like Eddie pointed out. [Breakfast jam session]

And then;

This is the follow up from the ppt presentation I sent you the other day. You can see how the kids have highlighted and fed back both self and peer reflections and I have used the verbal feedback stamp as well.

Plenty of discussions about oral feedback, of course, and the stamper is used not to stop and record but to acknowledge excellent oral contributions on the hoof or afterwards. Of course we have worked hard to develop self and peer critique for some time and although the students don’t always like it, especially it seems in MFL, we still need to see much more solid evidence from further research on its efficacy. It does reduce our workload, if the students learn from it-if they don’t, we have to go back and re-visit-what do others think?

Interestingly, our BSG assessment which we have been developing as NC levels went, will do away with subject targets next year and use growth mind set ones instead-another blog!







Toni, our other geographer, has trialled a range of ideas throughout the year and in summer. The slides are all self-explanatory.

sb31 sb30








I also chuck in a bit of geography and history and wanted to try out something that looked at some of the growth mind set traits that we report on in our new reports and will focus on even more next year and how we can encourage our lower attaining students to self-assess in a meaningful way. Their oral feedback is usually much stronger than their written responses, so much of our lessons are spent talking to each other about what we know, what we have learned and how we can learn even more!




Showing commitment, resilience and seeking and using feedback are important for all learners even me! Trying to help the students to see how these traits and skills have helped their learning and spending time talking about their experiences can only help them form good learning habits IMO.

Our science subject leader, Carmel always tells me that she really isn’t too fond of extended writing and feels an empathy with some students who don’t find writing easy too. She has been trialling the use of I pads to support literacy and home-learning in science and shared her ideas at the Sefton Headteacher’s conference, our own Research Conference and research ED at York.

 headteachers conference – Carmel Manwaring.ppsx

The oral feedback and dialogue has proved to be very effective over a short period of time with the control group out-performing the others. Carmel, in response to my summer challenge, informed me as with some other colleagues that; I have been marking assessments only as we know this is what gives us a real picture of where pupils are and who is likely to underperform and therefore which pupils to focus on. Not sure there is anything to actually ‘show’ though.

She went on to add; have been having a very interesting discussion with my y9s though, about what we do when we don’t have the iPads next year. Jordan Smith has had a fantastic idea where pupils self-mark but when they feel they need my input on a piece of work they will highlight that bit with a highlighter pen and hand the book to me for teacher feedback. Think it will work a bit like a paper version of the iPad marking. Only drawback is it is paper based so could be quite a delay, whereas with the iPad it tended to be instant. Interesting idea which we would like to give a go in September. 

Tim, subject leader for ICT, has been trialling the use of Office 365, before the whole school begins to move to the system next year. Tim told me;

I have attached some work the students did in Office 365. In One Note I have created a space for each of my classes. They are able to upload work electronically to this area. One of the features allows students to have a collaboration area. In this area they can either all work on the same file. Or in regards to the marking challenge they are able to peer review each other’s work as a class at the same time.  This way 30 students could all post their work in one area and as a group peer review all 30 pieces of work at the same time. The peer review takes the form of a sort of electronic post it note.  I have included a screen shot of this. There are other features that allows you to see how the feedback has changed over time.

It is one of the areas of Office 365 that I am developing. It has a lot of potential but I am still working through all the bugs on the network to make it more efficient for all the staff to use.


In Office 365 it allows you to publish a student’s work in OneNote. The other students in the group can all view the document online. It will accept a variety of file types including sound, video and animations. The students have enjoyed publishing their work online and peer assessing it. By using OneNote they are able to peer assess the entire groups work in one lesson. The assessments all appear on one page so they can have a group discussion. The feedback appears in a sort of electronic post it notes.

Claudio, our other ICT teacher used his year 7 Lego project to trial his idea.

Feedback without written comments in Stop Frame Animation

ICT have been using feedback without written comments in lessons with stop frame animation being at the forefront of my trail. As with all projects in ICT there is a definite starting point and an end goal. I have promoted peer feedback and assessment throughout.

The students start with a big load of Lego. It’s a team project so it suits verbal feedback.


Before I used to get the students to screen shot their work in PowerPoint and mark this with students’ peer assessing it. There are always going to be stars in ICT for certain projects and a good way to use these stars is to get them to float about the room suggesting improvements and different ways to build the Lego projects in the design stage.

From a table full of Lego you get a castle.


 This is the actual software the students use and instead of me looking at their screen shots of their work I could see it as they designed it ultimately I would have to look at it anyway to resolve any issue but because I felt I had more time knowing there was to be no written feedback and the students used me to more effect in the lessons.


We are just finishing the final Stop Frame movies and instead of the final written assessment we are going to watch each group’s movie on the big screen. It will be a more relaxed way of grading their group work but I think if I give each student a tick list of criteria to be met then they can still peer assess it and I can as well.

Overall I felt happier without the written feedback and have already started this kind of feedback with my GCSE class.


Colin, our business studies subject leader, has trialled a whole range of self and peer critique assessments using the technology in his room, including google docs for some time. He led our questioning learning hub and this expanded into a variety of different questioning techniques and trialled ideas which supported feedback, especially the use of help mats in drama, MFL, business studies and maths. A couple of Colin’s slides to show his work are here and are self-explanatory.




Eddie [MFL] led our most recent breakfast jam and shared some of his recent ideas.

  • Students write a comment regarding a target for them at the end of a lesson
  • An exercise in the following lesson attempts to address this target
  • The exercise can be assessed, and if a certain mark is attained, the student can verify that the target has been met


  • Scan books following or during a lesson
  • Following or during lesson, do a verbal dialogue with students on the basis of what you have seen. Much more impact than written dialogue – plus you can ask them loads!


 The whole of MFL have been working on their own crib sheets-this is one Eddie worked on with Helen F.


The slide produced [copies to the students as guides] is based on skimming the books, as Greg’s example showed earlier and picking out good named examples and areas which the students hadn’t grasped. This forms the basis for the lesson biased on the teacher’s assessment of the learning seen in books, but not commented upon in the books.

Eddie also showed the Monsieur sheet Helen H had designed some time ago which can be used for self/peer assessment or teacher crib sheet marking.


Eddie ended with the impact of moving away from written comments on his own workload with some points that others staff quite liked!

  • Well-being
  • Maximise lesson time as not exhausted
  • More time allocated to planning

Eddie found that the class he trialled his crib sheet with tended to prefer dot marking and they were as forthright as usual in their views!




Bronagh, our subject leader for Spanish sent her very creative ideas.

BD Spanish Marking Challenge Feedback

At the start of the year we changed our marking style to use a tick box system in both KS3 and KS4 for written work. Any mistakes were highlighted in orange to be corrected by the students and “golden phrases were highlighted in yellow”, the feedback was then given in the grid below. This not only saved us time but also made the feedback a lot more specific. The tables were created based on the GCSE mark scheme so students can see exactly what is required for a perfect answer and these were then differentiated to make a KS3 BSG version. Students commented on how they preferred this method of marking as it was a lot clearer for them to identify what they had mastered and what they needed to include to improve.




To join the trial I wanted to keep the same format so we tried the following ideas:

In MFL we developed Greg’s marking grid to include the same marking criteria we previously had. When marking I read through the work, filled in the table and stuck one in each book. Students then went back through their own work highlighted the mistakes they had made from the grid and corrected them. Before completing their next task they read the previous feedback to ensure they didn’t make the same highlighted mistakes and that they completed the next step task. Any students highlighted for praise or WOW moments were used as experts during the dirt lesson. Their work was used as an example for other students and students who struggled went to them for support to improve rather than me.



Students initially didn’t enjoy this idea and struggled to believe I had read all their work. After a while they did warm to the idea more and began to love seeing their name mentioned in the praise column. However I did notice there was a few errors which continually kept occurring no matter how many times they were highlighted so I tried a different approach of “The What’s” before marking.


When a task was completed students needed to go through for a final check to make sure they had not fallen for the same mistakes again. Although they always said they have re-read and checked their work they usually simply scanned it then handed it in. This time they had a criteria to look for and a final opportunity to find mistakes before I did.



This is an idea I have just introduced so at the moment I can’t measure the impact just yet but from this first few attempts students were very confident in identifying errors and correcting them themselves without needing any feedback from me.

We have continued to use peer assessment and self-assessment for feedback and I have used a new peer assessment format to get students to focus on the quality of their work not just the quantity.



For reading and listening feedback usually wasn’t very detailed or effective so instead we changed to make it a time for reflection on progress. Students filled in their own marks and keep track of their progress each time. Feedback is usually given orally when work is marked in lessons so no other feedback is required.



I attended the most recent MFL book look and the discussion concerning the effectiveness of the trials and the responses of the students was interesting. Marion felt that; My students seemed to like it because they felt that they had  a better understanding of the common mistakes they had made when I explained them orally (rather than reading them).They could also ask questions about anything they hadn’t understood which benefitted the rest of the class too. From my point of view I felt that the students were more focused and I could question them after explaining a point to check whether or not they now understood it. I think it worked particularly well with students who tended not to read written feedback.

Marion likes the adaptability of this method and shared these examples of the slides she produced for the class after skimming their books.

Marking Crib Sheet Poem


Marking Crib Sheet reading

Obviously great examples that the teachers spots can be shared on the visualizer and awards for good learning can be celebrated and individuals named and asked to elaborate. The suggested next steps based on prior assessment can then be either checked in the next lesson or next appropriate lesson orally as the teacher moves around the classroom or by whatever method of assessment they use.

Josie has been trialling a couple of different ideas in her art lessons.

Year 10 GCSE

To develop and improve progress, I’ve adapted the Assessment Objective display I refer to in lesson as a tracking marking sheet for the students’ sketchbooks.

The three objectives are detailed at the top of the sheet, then translated into questions that are discussed with myself and the student. Notes are then made as to what has been completed and then a plan of action is created for the student to work towards.

Students will generally spend several weeks working on their plan of action and will reassess with me every month.




Key Stage 3 – started with Year 7

Technical terminology needs to be covered in Art, before students can fully explore media. To help retention of the key terms and meanings, I have trialled the use of a question diary which can be attached to the back of the book.

Working on the idea of interleaving, a key term is introduced and referenced throughout two lessons and then the topic progresses. After a few lessons, the students are required to answer specific questions on their question diary to recall the information.




I’ve stopped at this point although others are trialling still and some may choose to begin a longer trial perhaps linked to our new style appraisal or our new learning hubs. At the beginning of the blog I alluded to the fact that teachers have found it difficult to move themselves away from adding written feedback and creating a dialogue this way. Marking less and marking better sounds easier than perhaps it is! Some of the examples have mixed both, some have gone the whole way but what is clear, even after a short practise run is that the students generally haven’t been overwhelmed by some of the ideas, especially the crib sheet. They are often conservative by nature and don’t always respond well to change. If they say ‘it’s rubbish’ or ‘I just don’t like it’ we do have to push them to give substantiated reasons to support their thinking and development. However if we gather the evidence to inform us that certain types of feedback are more effective than others in moving learning forwards, then we have to trial and adapt as well as we can do and prove to students and parents that there is merit in the idea and that our expectation is that students too trust our judgement and teaching ability and get on with it!

Have a great summer and enjoy the break and hopefully better weather.





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