Low Cost, High Impact Feedback

Screenshot 2018-06-16 07.12.00When we changed our feedback policy a few years ago, we were quite pleased with it – we’d looked at all the evidence around what makes good feedback, and thought we’d come up with something sensible and fair.

We established several key principles of effective feedback for each department to contextualise, such as providing time for students to do something with the feedback, highlighting the importance of using feedback to inform planning and distinguishing between feedback and marking. There were no silly requirements for different pens or extensive written comments every couple of weeks.

And yet, I don’t think we went far enough.

On reflection we could have spelt out that we do not necessarily expect to see written feedback at all; that we have no centralised expectation as to what feedback looks like in a subject and that we do not stipulate how often feedback should occur at all. We could have done more to stress that policies should be set by departments and to say that quality assurance should only be made against these policies.

I also think we could have done more in providing our teachers with tools and/or exemplification of how to practically implement strategies for giving different kinds of feedback in an efficient manner. It is easy to forget that just because the principles are right and that the intent to alleviate burdensome workload is there that teachers will magically know how to adopt low cost, high impact feedback strategies.

It’s interesting, for instance, to see how whole class feedback has evolved as more and more teachers try it with their classes and understand how to make it better and more efficient. For what it’s worth, many of the examples of it I see being shared still have too many unnecessary and inefficient aspects, potentially undermining the purpose of saving teacher time in the first place!

Our policy is now just one page long and I think now makes it crystal clear that we expect subject leaders to balance the needs of our students with what is reasonable and sustainable. Departments are free to shape their own policies in a way that they think is best with the emphasis on Low Cost, High Impact.

Behind the school policy are also examples of what this might look like in practice. Live Marking, Book Sampling and Whole Class Feedback are not original but perhaps what is different is how we have tried to show how these strategies actually work in practice. Our Low Cost, High Impact guides are the result of trials in classes to work out the most efficient and sustainable approaches.

The important thing is for these or other strategies to become habitualising them into daily practice. Only then are can they really be considered to have High Impact at a Low Cost.

High Impact, Low Cost feedback strategies:



15 thoughts on “Low Cost, High Impact Feedback

  1. Phil, agree it is the ratio or investment and student impact. Whole class marking is vulnerable to over egging – I ponder why colleagues feel secure in the embellishment? Teachers Ive work with do seem to be less comfortable with “lean.”

    I really like the visuals – any way we could get something similar for Question Level Analysis with the Exam Feedback Tool. Link here – http://www.kristianstill.co.uk/wordpress/Refining%20Assessment/

    Did you create the visuals?

    1. Hi Kristian. I don’t do the final visuals, I’m afraid. I mock it all up but then it’s put into Adobe Design, which I don’t know how to use. Hope all is well with you.

  2. Hi Phil, great blog which I have passed on to my SLs. Is there any chance you would be willing to share your full assessment/feedback/marking policy? We are currently researching what other schools are doing with a view to change…

    1. Hi Adam. If you send me an email address, I will forward you the one page summary of the feedback policy. Our wider assessment policy is much more in depth (it’s more of an assessment guide) and is not finished yet.

  3. Hello, Just found a link to your blog. Great info (thanks). I teach in a Welsh-medium comp and we are on a similar journey (but at an earlier stage) – ‘lean’ is for some reason a frightening concept, but we’ll keep going. May I have a high res copy of your posters. Would you object to me stealing ideas to translate into Welsh?

  4. Hi Phil, an interesting read (thanks for sharing this). We are currently reviewing our feedback processes. Would it be possible for you to share/email me a copy of your one page summary of your feedback policy along with the high res versions of the marking and feedback mini posters please? Thanks

  5. Hi – we are currently implementing a similar feedback policy (ie individual departments) at our school. I have read this post before and found it really useful; you are absolutely right that it is wrong to think all teachers will magically know how to implement such a change. Would you mind sharing the high resolution posters with me too? If that would be ok I would really appreciate it.

    Thank you in advance!

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