Time-Saving Pedagogy: 12 practical ideas, by @Powley_R

Re-Blog via Ruth Powley

7. Feedback Grid
Time to prepare: 0 minutes

Dylan Wiliam reminds us that feedback should involve more work for the student than the teacher.  Alex Quigley gives a warning here about “feedback [that] no longer becomes purposeful for the learning of students, but instead becomes a visible indicator for inspection teams.”

This strategy has saved my time with A Level History students.  Before I used it, I found myself re-writing the same targets for students time and again as they forgot what I’d written on their last essay and didn’t address my improvement strategies.

  • I write strategies for improvement on an essay
  • The student fills in the boxes below at the top of their next essay
  • I comment briefly on their progress with this improvement strategy.  It’s also useful to read how the student feels that they have addressed the improvement strategy

Thanks to Saffron Walden High School and Chew Valley High School for these other handy tips on smart but effective feedback.  See more ideas from Andy Tharby on Marking, Minimum Effort for Maximum Pleasure @Class Teaching

8. Live Marking
Time spent marking out of lesson: 0 minutes

Described by Sam Down @Class Teaching, “This, in my view, is one of the most effective forms of written feedback – time efficient and high impact.  So whilst the students are working, the teacher goes around the room…  Look at their work, write a question on their work to improve their work and then tell them to respond.  Come back 5 minutes later, to see if they have… I aim to do at least 7-8 students every lesson”

Rosenshine found that “students were more engaged when their teacher circulated around the room, and monitored… their work. The optimal time for these contacts was 30 seconds or less.”

9. Verbal Feedback
Time spent marking out of lesson: 0 minutes

Alex Quigley warns that, “With all of the focus being on written feedback, there is a danger that oral feedback becomes relegated as some inferior cousin in the teaching stakes. As teachers will tell you, it is the immediate oral feedback that can be the most useful mode of feedback, whereas the time-lag on written feedback can too often render it redundant. Teachers are driven to write reams of written feedback and are in danger of having little time or energy to concentrate upon the good feedback that really matters for improving learning.”

Get the students to write down your feedback so that:

  • They think about what you have said
  • They can tick off the feedback when they have implemented it

There is a fabulous round up of fast feedback techniques from Belmont Teach here

10. Book Space:
Time to prepare: 0 minutes

I love this idea from @Chris Chivers (Thinks) about leaving the left hand pages of a book for planning and ideas gathering.  It would also be a great place for students to record verbal feedback or undertake improvement tasks.

11. Variety for the sake of variety
Time saved: All that time spent on preparing ‘fun’ activities. 

Daniel Willingham points out that we remember what we think about.  Joe Kirby @Pragmatic Education says it best with his blog on the Cult of VarietyFun and variety are distracting from focusing our pupils on thinking about subject content so that they remember it. Teachers are spending huge amounts of time resourcing marketplaces and attitude cards when they’d be better off thinking up subject-specific tasks than fun, generic activities.”

The time saved can be spent on effective planning.  In Teach Like A Champion, Doug Lemov suggests that teachers stop day-to-day lesson planning and focus on unit planning.  Kev Bartle reinforces that “Ofsted does not specify how planning should be set out, the length of time it should take or the amount of detail it should contain. Inspectors are interested in the effectiveness of planning rather than the form it takes.”  For a straightforward template that includes some of the ideas above see the S&C Lesson Plan @lovelearningideas

12. Inexpensive ways to improve learning
Time to prepare: Nothing to prepare, it’s about rearranging what you teach

Roediger and Pyc identify here the following techniques that have been found to improve learning:

  • Distributing the learning of facts and skills by spacing learning activities over time and interleaving different kinds of material within a lesson
  • Self-testing or taking practice tests
  • Explanatory questioning using elaborative explanation (generating an explanation for why a concept is true) and self-explanation (explaining how new information is related to known information, or explaining the steps of a process)


It’s not a pedagogy, but if you’re in a stew about Ofsted I’d recommend reading Head Teacher Kev Bartle’s words of wisdom here: “[We] need… to welcome the Trojan Mice teachers bringing their own strategies to their own classrooms, refining them and sharing this with others in a supportive professional learning environment.”

If you’re struggling with workload it might also be worth reading @andywarner78’s blog on managing workload here.

This is a re-blog post originally posted by Ruth Powley, and published with kind permission. The article was originally published in 2015, and updated in 2019 by UKEd Editorial in accordance with website policy and upgrade changes. The original post can be found here.

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