David Didau – trainer, consultant, writer and former English teacher – questions the received wisdom that all marking is good marking and suggests how to make your feedback to students worthwhile. He explores the underlying reasons why marking is essential to progress and suggests ideas for how you can provide clarity, and increase students’ effort and aspirations.

by David Didau
5th August 2020



Over the past few years the expectations of how much and how often teachers are expected to mark seems to have increased dramatically. One reason for this is the research finding that feedback is the highest impact intervention that teachers can make to improve students’ outcomes. According to the Education Endowment Foundation, it adds a whopping 8 months to students’ schooling and is also cheap as interventions go. But although the financial cost of giving feedback might be minimal, it is hugely demanding of teachers’ time. It’s always worth being aware of the opportunity cost. If the time we spend giving feedback does not result in students making progress then it’s a waste of everyone’s time. Here are three principles that might not only maximise the impact of your feedback, but also save you time:

  • Never mark work for accuracy. Students need to do this themselves. If we do it for them then we rob them of the opportunity to engage metacognitively with their work. Instead we should only mark work that is visibly annotated and proofread.

  • Ask students to highlight where they want you to give them feedback. This could be the work of which they’re most proud, or where they have struggled most. This will allow you to focus your feedback at the point of learning and to increase its impact.

  • Time spent marking is best spent reading students’ work. Writing comments can be onerous and wasteful. Instead, assign colours to items of feedback and simply leave blobs of colour in their books. When you hand back books, display the colour-coded feedback on the board and ask students to write in the comments that apply to them.

The attached resource and flowcharts explore in depth how we might go about designing feedback that provides clarity and increases effort and aspiration.






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