How to get students to engage with feedback

Specific and Holistic marking

I taught bottom set year elevens last year, and by October, they were used to the fact that they would always rewrite their work to improve it. Though I sometimes heard mild protests, these students always got pens to paper and worked, with impressive focus, for most of the lesson.

How? Well, after years of trial-and-error, CPD and a nostalgic hearkening back to the blackboard low-tech days of my own education, I had one of those rare moments of clarity. I remembered really valuing the specific feedback I received from my English teacher when it was insightful (the OFSTED term) and clear enough to allow me to visualise what the piece would look like after I had made the improvements.

What does insightful marking look like? Well, from my experience, I’ve seen that the most student-motivating marking comes in two levels.

There are two levels of marking: The Specific and the Holistic

Specific – guiding questions and actionable feedback

Holistic – the overall principles that have guided the specific questions and feedback.

An English example of specific might be to ask a student to add adjectives in certain places or to be more specific about the location of the story (e.g. ‘Paris’ instead of just ‘city’).

The holistic would then be to make better use of noun phrases and specific nouns.

I also use a number system to link the specific with the holistic. At my school, we use ‘www’ and ‘ebw’, and this is where I put the broader, more holistic principles, which I number. I then either number the specific as well, or I have the students attempt this in pencil to see if they can match my specific feedback with the broader, more widely applicable principles. Here’s what that looks like:

Specific feedback in the form of guiding questions. The number four refers then to the holistic feedback in the next picture


holistic feedback
The holistic feedback is numbered. Sometimes, I have the students attempt to number the specific feedback themselves in pencil to see if they understand the broader principles.

This is a re-blog post originally posted by Nicole Schmidt and published with kind permission.

Read more articles from Nicole by clicking here.


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