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Marking is feedback, but feedback is not just marking

Andy Goodeve

Written by Andy Goodeve

Andy is our Head of Pedagogical Services with extensive experience in education leadership across a range of socially challenging diverse schools in varying locations. His experience includes differing age ranges including secondary, middle, primary and junior schools.

Every evening, after school hours, teachers are trudging down school corridors with their wheeled trolley's filled with books. Teachers around the country looking forward to an evening 'in front of the fire' marking. Many teachers can spend in excess of two hours each evening on this 'accepted' past-time, but what is the purpose?

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What is feedback?

Feedback is information given to the learner and/or the teacher about the learner’s performance relative to any learning goals. It should be aimed towards (and be capable of producing) improvement in pupil learning. Feedback redirects or refocuses either the teacher’s or the learner’s actions to achieve a goal, by aligning effort and activity with an outcome. It can be about the learning activity itself, the process of activity, the student’s management of their learning or self-regulation or (the least effective) themselves as individuals.

Feedback can be verbal, written, or given through tests or via digital technology. It can come from a teacher or someone taking a teaching role, or from peers. Providing feedback to pupils through verbal and written feedback is integral to effective teaching. Equally, gathering feedback on how well pupils have learned something is important in enabling teachers to clear up any misunderstanding and provide the right level of challenge in future lessons.  Education Endowment Foundation 


The value of feedback

No one can deny the importance of feedback. Everyone, irrespective of whether they are in schools, wants to be reassured how they are getting on. The problem seems to be, or has been, what constitutes good practice. I remember when my school had an Ofsted inspection and the school was strongly criticised on its marking policy and how it was not 'fit for purpose' due to it being deemed a major factor in a year's weaker results. The policy valued teacher time being spent with pupils in giving verbal feedback.

The expectation was, at the time, that feedback was marking. Marking had to be in depth, irrespective of a pupil's age and whether the pupil could actually read the comment. There were even scenarios with some pupils where the teacher comment was longer than the written work of the pupils. Senior leaders deemed beautifully marked books with lots of teacher writing in them as evidence of best practice.


Impact on learning

School leadership created 'monster' unrealistic marking policies involving triple marking, using different colours, three stars and a wish, development points etc. Policies were used to create evidence trails rather than impact on learning. These policies are/were ultimately driving teachers out of the classroom. 

The truth is that, largely, this 'evidence' doesn't represent a good use of teachers’ time. The cost is the wellbeing of the teacher and, ultimately, the progress of pupils. If teachers are having to be overworked by administration 'ticking the box' activities, they’re likely to simply throw in the towel.

Feedback, as identified by EEF, is a powerful tool in pupil progress. Written work in pupil's books should, over time, tell a story of the learning that is happening in the classroom. It should not be  judged on how many indepth comments teachers write in pupil books. During work trawls, it's easy to see improvement in a pupil's work and subsequently how they are acting on feedback. 

Evidencing written feedback was at epidemic levels, but now it is slowly been quarantined and brought under control. The phrase of leadership 'it’s what Ofsted wants to see' is coming under control. Leaders are now prepared to take a leap of faith and rewrite policies to focus on feedback. Trust is now being given back to teachers to know the pupils, to give valued appropriate feedback that shows learning and progress and not obsess over written evidence.

Assessment at the point of learning

InfoMentor shows just the assessable content for specific lessons so teachers can quickly access information without scrolling through large amounts of work. With our cloud based technology, assessments can be made in the classroom at the point of learning. A school’s chosen mark scheme can be applied along with easily identifiable and colourful icons. Individual pupil portfolios containing photo and video evidence can also be shared with parents.

You can read more from me regarding my views and opinions on education right here on the InfoMentor blog. You can also find out more about InfoMentor which is a teaching and learning resource that has been specifically designed to make life easier for schools by reducing workload for the modern teacher. You can download white papers, view case studies and request a demo.

Download our free guide to assessment after levels