Feedback Wellbeing

On valuable feedback that supports teacher wellbeing

cover pic

The conflation of marking and feedback has led to a pernicious culture in schools that equates lots of written marking in books with high quality feedback. The irony is, of course, that the evidence on written marking is thin (read the EEF’s review on the evidence of written marking: ‘A marked improvement’) and sometimes great feedback is nigh on impossible to evidence.

It’s difficult to pick the best metaphor to describe the profusion of marking and consequent impact on teacher wellbeing but I’m going to go with this (and excuse the hyperbole – I’m an English teacher): teachers are drowning in a sea of marking. At the start of term we dip our toes into the sea of marking (got to test the temperature) and before we know it our feet have been pulled out from under us by an undercurrent we didn’t see coming. Midway through the term we’ve lost sight of land and when the holidays hit we use that time to wade our way back to shore. It’s an exhausting and demoralising pattern as predictable as the ebb and flow of tides. We joke about teacher widows (pity those in relationships with teachers) but part of the problem is that our teachers have been lost at sea.

Whatever the metaphor, I can’t help but see a correlation between the fetishisation of marking (read this from David Didau) and a teacher recruitment and retention crisis. If middle and senior leaders want to keep hold of their teachers then they need to look again at what they are expecting of their staff in terms of marking and feedback. I’m not, however, expecting our senior leaders to stand, Cnut-like, on the shore and command the incoming tide to stop.

Silly Old Cnut.

Of course our students deserve good feedback to help them improve and we as teachers need to be able to identify what students know and what their misconceptions might be to inform where we go next with our teaching. However, we can do a lot better with how we navigate the sea of marking to ensure that fewer teachers are being washed-up, bedraggled and browbeaten, before their time.

I was lucky enough to attend the #LeadingLearningsHRS course at Huntington Research School yesterday and one of the documents I was given to read is a Research Summary of Marking and Feedback. In it, there is a helpful summary of ‘modest conclusions’ that can be drawn from the EEF ‘A marked improvement’ document about what makes for effective feedback:

  • Prompt questions rather than teacher corrections promote greater student ownership over the correction process
  • If students are given the lesson time needed to engage with marking, then coded marking is just as effective as written comments
  • Giving students adequate time and support to help them understand comments and, in particular, highly specific targets will yield the most positive results
  • A focus on the quality of feedback as opposed to quantity and frequency is likely to lead to greater progress for students
  • Feedback should be timely, so oral feedback is often appropriate in a way that written marking is not

I think marking crib sheets (the brainchild of @mrthorntonteach though I’d also recommend reading Jo Facer’s blog for how they do feedback at Michaela which is similar in approach to the idea of a crib sheet) meet a lot of these features of effective feedback with the added boon of being teacher friendly.

I have been using marking crib sheets since the Autumn term. The first time I used them I managed to mark a complete set of 30 books in under an hour – a record breaking time for me. I was able to get a feel for how my students were doing and also give personalised feedback but I didn’t have to lug all of the books home and spend the usual 3 hours diligently writing all over their books in a worthy attempt to provide quality feedback.

Since then I’ve encouraged my team to use marking crib sheets and have been explicit about not expecting to see so much written marking in students’ books (though it’s a hard habit to break – sometimes we can’t help ourselves and that’s fine). School policy dictates that once or twice a term students receive WWW/EBI feedback on a piece of work and then complete a ‘yellow box’ activity to act on this feedback – this ties in very nicely with the crib sheets. We can take in students’ books, knock up a crib sheet and give students numbered targets on an assessment piece. Sorted.

I think it’s really important that the valuable time teachers spend marking is not wasted. If we don’t give students time to read, reflect and act on our feedback we might as well not bother. What did we give last Sunday up for if students just flick their eyes over what we’ve written (which could be beautifully personal and even witty) before cracking on with something new? So I expect my team to use a lesson to go through their feedback with the class – perhaps flashing a few great examples under the visualiser –  before getting students to complete a task linked to their personal targets. Whilst students are getting on with their ‘DIRT Task’ (Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time) teachers can circulate and give 1-2-1 support and specific verbal feedback.

As we review and refine this approach, I’m hopeful that it is enabling teachers to give good quality, valuable and timely feedback to their students in a way which recognises the importance of their wellbeing. It might even mean that teachers look through their books more often because they’re not put off by the expectation to scrawl on every page.

See below a few examples of crib sheets in action in my classroom  which I hope shows the many ways it can be used. If you’ve made it that far, at the very bottom of this post you’ll find a link to a google drive with some templates you can download to use/adapt.

Having a completed a 2b style question, my middle set year 8s received an A5 copy of a marking crib sheet in their books. Here’s an example of the written feedback my students receive (in line with school policy) including a personal WWW comment and numbered EBI targets (which refer to the numbers on the crib sheet) followed by a personalised DIRT task which the student has completed in a yellow box and annotated with how her writing has been improved:



Here’s another yellow box improvement and self-assessment (in blue pen) of a DIRT task focused on what she thinks I would now say about her work:


I think this is evidence of students really engaging with the feedback they received on the crib sheets and there’s evidence of real improvement. All of this with only an hour of my time spent going through their books! What’s even more encouraging is that the class have responded really well to this form of feedback.

Here’s my first ever crib sheet. This wasn’t following an assessment, I was giving the crib sheet a go for a general book look and trialled including an image of a praise-worthy bit of writing. NB: I have used initials for the purposes of sharing here but would ordinarily write students’ names.

first booklook.png

An example of a crib sheet for giving feedback on a year 8 Animal Farm formative assessment:


An example of KS3 Paper 2 Section A Q1-3 feedback that doubled as cover lesson instructions:

2a 8f

Here’s a couple of examples of it in use for year 11 Lit essay feedback:

An iNSpector Calls.png


Like the look of them? Find a few templates here.

Interested in how you can be wellbeing friendly whilst still giving great feedback on PPEs? Read this.

** UPDATE January 2018 **

I’ve been playing about with the template. Please see some new examples below and new examples/templates here. You’ll find what the template was created for written down the left hand side e.g. Weekly Writing Challenge feedback.

Feedback to year 10s on a weekly writing challenge.

year 10 wwc feedback

Feedback to year 10s on AQA Paper 1 Q2

year 10 p1 q2

Feedback to year 11s on Jekyll and Hyde essay

year 11 j and h

Feedback to year 11s on poetry comparison

YEAR 11 POETRY comparison.png








  1. Rebecca, May I seek to clarify a point or two? The Feedback Sheet is also a Task Sheet, yes? so students see it twice: When task is set, and for feedback? That seems a design issue. Surely, if it’s feedback, it should focus on that? All the ‘soft’ advice about underlining and so on: it feels, when the onus is on improved learning outcomes, that such issues should be addressed elsewhere. SPAG: This is after 8 years’ schooling. Perhaps the language is at fault.

    Your blog is an inspiration and a motivation. Thank you.


    1. Hi Adrian,

      No they only get this sheet for the feedback (it is generated whilst marking books) but I often include the task title that the feedback is linked to.

      We have combined the feedback to fit the purpose of both giving feedback on formative assessment and addressing things like SPAG and presentation issues. I understand your arguments about focusing on improved learning outcomes but I don’t want teachers double marking books (once for the assessment and another time for SPAG and presentation etc). Besides, students should always present their work with care and try and ensure their spelling, punctuation and grammar is accurate.

      Unfortunately students continue to make SPAG errors after many years of schooling but then so do adults…

      Thank you for your feedback – always happy to clarify – and thank you for your kind words too.



  2. Reblogged this on Exploring C21 Literacy and commented:
    A timely post as NZ teachers take a break. But how many will be catching up on marking? Lots I bet! Some great ideas here about quality feedback. Extremely pertinent as the powers that be continue to demand evidence of learning progress and sadly link that to professional competency.


    1. Thanks though the credit really goes to where I took the ideas from: Michaela Community School (see Joe Kirby’s blog) and @mrthorntonteach from whom I adapted the crib sheet idea.

      Pleased if it’s helped you find what your looking for, though.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The crib sheet looks helpful, although I must confess I am really glad no such requirement is expected of me in my school system. I barely can tread water as it is to keep my head above the surface.

    I was wondering if you’ve given thought to the students designing the “success criteria” see John Hattie’s work? In this way they are designing their own feedback sheet. This becomes a learning tool in itself. The student then uses it to self-assess. They write their own www/ebi. They ask a critical friend to do the same for them. Then the use the feedback to make changes. At that point they then seek feedback regarding their learning from the teacher. The teacher can now say something like “yes I agree with your self-assessment and peer feedback” or “have you thought about….”. And the teacher can say “well done on the changes you made” or “did you consider…”. I will not provide feedback to my students until they’ve done this process. I want to empower them to be critical thinkers and self-reflective. I want to empower them to be independent learners. I also know it doesn’t always work but I am aspirational! 😜

    As you indicate, it should be about learning not about policy. Well done on helping out your peers with great advice.


    1. Hi Aurora,

      The crib sheet has reduced my marking time – they can just be penned notes but I find it just as quick to produce this quick PowerPoint slide.

      I use peer assessment but the Dunning-Kruger effect makes me wary of putting too much emphasis on students marking each other’s or their own work. After all, I’m the expert and they are novices. My job is to identify what they know, understand and can do before planning next steps.

      Of course I want them to be critical and self-reflective but it is important for teachers to regularly read work and give feedback (in the least onerous way possible).

      Happy to share what we are doing and it’s worth pointing out that I take inspiration from many great educators.


  4. Thanks, Rebecca. I am really enjoying purloining many of your generously donated resources! I like the idea of a CRIB sheet, but wondered if I might a clarify a couple of points. Is the CRIB sheet a one size fits all? Is the WWW & EBI completed by you or the student (or both)? Do you include any other comments on the student’s work? E.g. if they made a SPAG slip, would you correct it? I’m a bit unclear about about how this saves time and provides personalised feedback. I’m all for it, but cannot quite see it. Sorry for what is definitely an oversight on my part.


    1. Hi Sam,

      So every student is talked through the feedback and has a copy in their book. They also have a WWW comment from me and an EBI which correlates to the numbers on the sheer e.g. a student might have an EBI with two numbers.

      On their work I will circle SPAG errors and the spellings are on the sheet because often more than one student has made the same spelling mistake.

      Apart from writing out the WWW for each student (though some of my team use codes for that too) this has definitely proven quicker and students still feel they are getting personalised feedback.

      I generate the EBI list as I go and sometimes a numbered thing on there may only be relevant to one or two students but oftentimes the same things crop over and over again but I don’t have to keep writing it in books.

      I do not write comments in the body of students’ work which also saves time.

      Hope that makes sense!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: