Whole class feedback

High-impact time saver

Whole class feedback

Elen Harris looks at how Sevenoaks School has developed a model for giving high-impact feedback to students, while saving teachers time.

The importance of feedback

According to John Hattie, giving a variety of feedback to students has an important impact on learning. Feedback provided via marking has an ‘effect size’ of 0.79 (Hattie, 2012), adding 8 months’ progress potential for students (Education Endowment Foundation, 2017). This is valuable,  but the burden of marking means that good feedback is often difficult to achieve in this way, with poor quality, generic, comments frequently seen (Christodoulou, 2019a). Students often do not act upon feedback, inhibiting progress (Jones & Essery, 2018), and vague comments such as ‘explain this’ do not help students to improve without guidance steps on how to ‘explain’ (Christodoulou, 2019a). Marking individual student work therefore has limited effectiveness (Elliott et al., 2016) and requires high teacher effort but often delivers low student impact. A low effort, high-impact method, which provides more specific, actionable, guidance for students to make progress is needed. Whole class feedback (WCF) is the solution.

Whole class feedback (WCF)

The premise of WCF is outlined in Jones & Essery (2018), Sherrington & Stafford (2019), and many others: a teacher reads through work whilst making notes on a feedback sheet, with common errors, things done well etc. recorded. Nothing is written on the work itself, though a star in the margin could be added next to good work so that a student can read aloud in class. The time saved on marking is utilised to create feedback tasks, which are added to the sheet. Feedback tasks should involve ‘a recipe, not a statement’ that is ‘specific and actionable’ (Christodoulou, 2019b & 2019c) i.e. students will understand how to progress because they receive more precise comments than ‘explain this’. The sheet is photocopied for students’ books and feedback should be soon after the students completed the original task so they can remember the task.

Time saving

A recent audit at school found that various types of feedback that could be classified as WCF were used by a variety of teachers across a range of departments. None used a template and feedback was usually written out on an ad hoc basis. Teachers still wrote individual comments on work alongside WCF, in the belief that WCF hindered workload. So it has to be accepted that encouraging a complete switch to WCF is a huge cultural shift for teacher and student alike, particularly as many teachers perceive individual comments on work as more accountable to observers (Facer, 2016a & 2016b).

Creating a WCF template

A Sevenoaks class feedback template was subsequently created, drawing on examples from other teachers published online. It was trialled with two year 9 and two year 8 Geography classes during Lent term 2020. Initially the template contained space for ‘what went well’ (WWW) and ‘even better if’ (EBI) comments, ‘feedforward tasks’, and an excellent example of the piece of work for students to analyse and develop their metacognition. The template was revised with usage (figure 1), combining WWW and EBI boxes into a ‘feedback’ box with statements that could be interpreted either positively or negatively dependant on whether they have a tick (WWW) or hashtag (EBI) next to them to streamline the process. Initially, WWW and EBI points were bullet pointed, and students had to work out what feedback applied to them. However, focus group feedback indicated both younger and lower ability students struggled to work out what specific bits of feedback applied to them, so the template evolved to have numbered points, with the corresponding number being annotated on individual student’s work.

Reviewing the template

Empirical evidence suggested, after using the template for several months, students became better at interrogating their own practice, self-assessed more, and performed better in assessments than if they had not used WCF. Year 9 students fed back that the Sevenoaks template was clear, well formatted, and stood out in their folders, which they liked. Most students did not mind WCF. From a teacher’s perspective, WCF reduced workload considerably, enabling saved time to be spent on producing a higher quality feedback lesson, thus aiding student progress. After initial ‘set up’ and familiarisation with WCF, students are quite self-sufficient and by printing on coloured paper, marking and feedback is easily recognised in folders for observers to see.

Download a completed WCF template here: Sevenoaks WCF template 2020 (1)
Roll out

Ideally WCF will be rolled out across the entire school so students become familiar with the approach and make progress, while staff workload is reduced. However, WCF is a huge change, so this will not happen overnight. Additionally, teachers should not have to use WCF – but it  will become part of their toolkit to help individual practitioners find what works best for them whilst trying to moderate their workload and become more research informed.

Elen Harris is a Geography Teacher teaching part of the IGCSE and IB programmes at Sevenoaks School since 2016. Elen obtained a BSc degree in Physical Geography with Geology from the University of Southampton in 2014.  

More information on this study can be found in Innovate, the annual academic journal from the Institute for Teaching and Learning: https://www.sevenoaksschool.org/teachinglearning/research/innovate/

All pictures by kind permission of Sevenoaks School.


Christodoulou, D., (2019a) Whole class feedback: saviour or fad? (Online). Available at: https://blog.nomoremarking.com/whole-class-feedback-saviour-or-fad-5c54c463a4d0 (Accessed 25.09.19).

Christodoulou, D., (2019b) Whole class feedback: a recipe, not a statement (Online). Available at: https://blog.nomoremarking.com/whole-class-feedback-a-recipe-not-a-statement-e2a6704ea434 (Accessed 17.12.2019).

Christodoulou, D., (2019c) Whole class feedback: improve the pupil, not just the work (Online). Available at: https://blog.nomoremarking.com/whole-class-feedback-improve-the-pupil-not-just-the-work-53ebf74f39f6 (Accessed 17.12.2019).

Education Endowment Foundation., (2017) Sponsored Content: A marked improvement? (Online) Available at: https://impact.chartered.college/article/eef-marked-improvement/ (Accessed 13.01.2020).

Elliott, V., et al., (2016) A marked improvement? A review of the evidence on written marking. Oxford. Education Endowment Foundation referenced in Fletcher-Wood, H., (2018) Guiding student improvement without individual feedback. (Online). Available at: https://impact.chartered.college/article/fletcher-wood-student-improvement-without-individual-feedback/ (Accessed 17.12.2019).

Facer, J., (2016a) Giving feedback the ‘Michaela’ way. (Online) Available at:  https://readingallthebooks.com/2016/03/19/giving-feedback-the-michaela-way/ (Accessed 17.12.2019).

Facer, J., (2016b) Marking is futile. In Battle Hymn of the Tiger Teachers, The Michaela Way. Edited by Katherine Birbalsingh. Published 2016 by John Catt Educational Ltd, Woodbridge.

Fletcher-Wood, H., (2018) Guiding student improvement without individual feedback. (Online). Available at: https://impact.chartered.college/article/fletcher-wood-student-improvement-without-individual-feedback/ (Accessed 17.12.2019).

Hattie, J., (2012) Visible learning for teachers: maximising impact on learning. Abingdon. Routledge. Referenced in Fletcher-Wood, H., (2018) Guiding student improvement without individual feedback. (Online). Available at: https://impact.chartered.college/article/fletcher-wood-student-improvement-without-individual-feedback/ (Accessed 17.12.2019).

Jones, A., & Essery, M., (2018) Q: How can we reduce teacher workload without affecting the quality of marking? A: Whole-class feedback. (Online). Available at: https://my.chartered.college/2018/10/how-reduce-teacher-workload-quality-marking-whole-class-feedback/ (Accessed 13.01.2020).

Sherrington, T., & Stafford, S., (2019) Effective feedback: whole class marking. (Online). Available at: https://my.chartered.college/2019/05/effective-feedback-whole-class-marking/ (Accessed 13.01.2020).

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