An effective and time-saving approach to feedback on written work

Marking can be time-consuming, ineffective and it generates plenty of debate. What can’t be argued about is that it can definitely increase teacher workload. To try to decrease this impact, I get busy with WWW, EBI and DIRT – apologies for the acronym overload.

When providing my students with feedback, I write WWW (what went well) comments and EBI (even better if) comments. Pupils then respond in green pen during a DIRT (directed improvement and reflection time) activity. DIRT is essential to ensure students can act on and benefit from the feedback.

Burning paper

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Don’t you wish your marking was hot like this?

Setting challenging EBI comments with specific tasks helps students to improve. I was fed up of writing similar EBI targets in each book that were not necessarily getting the best out of pupils. I needed a new way of giving my students more meaningful feedback. The solution is differentiated stickers.

For each GCSE topic, there are three sets of feedback stickers: Aiming for grade 4, Aiming for grade 6 and Aiming for grade 8. These are based on Kerboodle headings but can be modified to suit your course.

When students reach the end of a unit, they are given a sticker. The sticker template can be created in MS Word (download an editable example as MS Word or pdf).

Getting sticky with it

To produce your own version of the stickers just change the WWW and EBIs to suit your classes needs. Once printed, it is then easy enough to highlight the relevant tasks your student needs to complete. Give pupils adequate DIRT opportunities within lesson time to aid their progress and improvement.

I like to use sticker paper to make the process even less time consuming. Alternatively, you could display the feedback sheets with the corresponding task numbers written in each student’s books (depending on their individual needs).

Instead of producing three separate stickers for each GCSE topic, you could reduce it to one sticker which includes tasks ranging from more accessible to more challenging. By highlighting specific tasks for each pupil, you are still providing differentiation.

The EBI tasks are instructions as opposed to questions. These enable students to familiarise themselves with key command words. This is highly valuable, as time spent dissecting the meaning of command words ensures pupils can access exam question style vocabulary.

An advantage of using these feedback stickers has been a reduction in workload. By adopting this new way of providing feedback, I am spending considerably less time marking and gone are the days of writing the same target in numerous exercise books.

The use of targets to make marking as specific and actionable as possible is likely to increase pupil progress

The Education Endowment Foundation’s report Marked improvement? A review of the evidence on written marking supports the use of coded feedback. It states: ‘it is likely to save time … the use of targets to make marking as specific and actionable as possible is likely to increase pupil progress.’ This supports us using the Aiming for grade 4/6/8 headings.

Admittedly this method only becomes a time saver once you’ve created the resources. It can also be difficult to categorise each task under a numerical grade. To combat this, enlist colleagues, and share the workload across your department to save on time.

Pupils and colleagues have reacted positively to these feedback stickers. Colleagues agree it saves time and they like the specific differentiated targets for pupils to act on. Pupils say that the stickers focus them on what they need to do in order to improve. They like that they are being given explicit tasks which enable them to recognise areas for development when revising.

Many positive outcomes have been the result of implementing these feedback stickers for DIRT. I am confident that pupils are producing more meaningful ‘green pen’ type responses to my marking. I have also found that due to the time-saving element of this initiative, my EBI instructions are more targeted and suitable for each individual pupil, without falling foul to the repetitive nature of handwritten teacher feedback.