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Teaching challenge

Ms Kearney is confident when leading the class in instructional sequences that support pupils to make sense of new material. However, pupils sometimes still need input to clarify misunderstandings and correct mistakes. How can Ms Kearney efficiently provide feedback through her instruction to support pupil learning?

Key idea

Feedback helps pupils to improve and to manage their own learning. Effective feedback should be deployed after considering its benefits and costs and allow pupils the opportunity to respond.

Evidence summary

Accurate and helpful feedback

Used effectively, feedback can have a significant impact on pupil learning (EEF, 2018). However, it requires care and attention to ensure feedback is helpful. Done badly, teacher feedback can actually inhibit learning (Kluger & De Nisi, 1996).

There are many types of feedback, all of which have strengths and weaknesses. A key feature of effective feedback is that its content helps a pupil to answer at least one of three questions:

  • Where am I going? What does success look like in this problem or area?
  • How am I doing? Relative to success, where am I?
  • Where to next? What practical steps can I take to close the gap? (Hattie & Timperley, 2007).

While teachers often choose to give written feedback, we have little evidence that this is effective for long term pupil outcomes. It is also highly time-consuming (EEF, 2016). Therefore, Ms Kearney should first use the questions above to ensure the content of feedback is useful. She can then decide the most time efficient method to deliver this feedback – written or verbal – rather than assuming written marking is best.

Self and peer feedback linked to these questions is far more time efficient than written teacher marking. However, it is difficult for novices to assess quality or give feedback on complex tasks (Christodoulou, 2017). Therefore, Ms Kearney might consider encouraging pupils to feed back on more straightforward tasks and to scaffold this with a checklist to support those who need it.

Whole-class feedback involves teachers reviewing all pupils’ work and identifying common misconceptions and errors, before feeding back to the whole class. It is not necessarily tailored to individual needs. However, addressing misconceptions is important for pupil learning and is significantly quicker than written marking (Quigley, 2018).

Ms Kearney must be careful not to overwhelm pupils with too much negative feedback; if pupils do not believe they can be successful they may avoid the task completely (Kluger & de Nisi, 1996).

Feedback supports pupils to manage their own learning

Over time, effective feedback helps pupils to monitor and regulate their own learning (EEF, 2017). Feedback allows pupils to monitor their current performance and understanding. If pupils have a good grasp of their current performance and a clear sense of their goal, then they should increasingly be able to judge how well they are doing and to regulate their learning by identifying what they need to do to improve.

However, pupils can become dependent on feedback when it is given too frequently (Soderstrom & Bjork, in Hendrick & Macpherson, 2018). Additionally, where pupils are frequently given grades as part of their feedback, they can become preoccupied with ‘how I am doing?’ over ‘where to next?’ (EEF, 2016). Finally, pupils will only act on feedback if they believe they can be successful (Kluger & De Nisi, 1996). Ms Kearney must not only provide accurate feedback but also create time in her lessons to ensure her pupils are able to act on it.

Deciding whether to give feedback

Feedback is part of effective assessment practice (Christodoulou, 2017). However, doing it properly can be time-consuming so Ms Kearney must factor this into her decision about when and whether to give feedback.

If Ms Kearney decides she will give feedback, she needs to be clear what format it will take. For example, if she wants to provide individualised written feedback on extended writing, it will require a lot of her time. She might choose this approach if the feedback is very important but she should also plan significant time for pupils to respond. Dedicated feedback lessons can only be afforded sparingly as there is a curriculum to teach, so these may need to be identified in advance as good assessment practice always has a clear idea about the decision it will be used to support before assessment occurs.

A more efficient approach might be to assess pupil misconceptions through a short exit task. If designed well, analysing the proportion of correct responses could be much quicker and Ms Kearney can then decide to either feed back by reteaching the content, or just move on. Ms Kearney could alternatively feed back to individuals or small groups of pupils who answered incorrectly at an opportune moment during the next lesson.

Considering options for feedback before assessing pupils is effective practice (Wiliam & Leahy, 2015). Ms Kearney should ask herself the following questions in order to make good decisions about how and when to offer pupils feedback:

  • Before I set a task, what will my teaching options be? Is feedback appropriate?
  • If feedback is appropriate, what approaches are there?
  • Of these approaches, bearing in mind my limited time, which is the most efficient for pupil learning?

Nuances and caveats

Feedback and marking are often conflated. Marking is only one type of feedback and has significant downsides in terms of teacher time and the ability of pupils to act on it (EEF, 2016). Marking should be thought of as only one of a number of teacher feedback strategies, each with particular pros and cons.

Data from feedback only needs to be recorded when it is useful for improving pupil outcomes. It is usually more beneficial to ensure pupils have received accurate and helpful feedback that they then act upon.

Key takeaways

Ms Kearney can use feedback to support pupil learning by understanding that:

  • high-quality feedback, written or verbal, is ambitious and specific about how to improve
  • over time, feedback supports pupils to monitor and regulate their own learning
  • before setting an assessment, teachers need to decide whether feedback will be given and be able to justify their decision

Further reading

Black, P., Harrison, C., Lee, C., Marshall, B., & Wiliam, D. (2004). Working inside the Black Box: Assessment for Learning in the Classroom. Phi Delta Kappan, 86(1), 8–21.


Christodoulou, D. (2017). Making Good Progress: The Future of Assessment for Learning. Oxford: OUP.

Education Endowment Foundation (2016). A marked improvement? A review of the evidence on written marking.

Education Endowment Foundation (2017). Metacognition and Self-regulated learning Guidance Report.

Education Endowment Foundation (2018). Sutton Trust-Education Endowment Foundation Teaching and Learning Toolkit.

Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The Power of Feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81–112.

Hendrick, C. & McPherson, R. (Eds.). (2018). What Does This Look Like in the Classroom? Bridging the gap between research and practice. Woodbridge: John Catt.

Kluger, A. N., & DeNisi, A. (1996) The effects of feedback interventions on performance: A historical review, a meta-analysis, and a preliminary feedback intervention theory. Psychological Bulletin, 119(2), 254–284.

Quigley, A., (2018). School improvement and taming the ‘marking monster’. Education Endowment Foundation Blog.

Wiliam, D., & Leahy, S., (2015). Embedding Formative Assessment. Florida: Learning Sciences International.