Feedback and Critique

The Feedback and Critique Learning Hub page and resources are managed by Hub Leader, Simon Thompson

Hub members:

  • STH (Hub Leader, ILC)
  • FWI (Maths)
  • LCO (English)
  • SHA (Science)
  • SFA (Science)
  • JLO (Humanities)
  • NRO (PE)
  • LHU (Visual Arts)
  • SRO (Technology)


  • To consider the nature, timing and engagement of our students with feedback and critique
  • To develop feedback and critique systems that ensure increased clarity, effort and aspiration amongst our students, supporting a culture of ‘growth mindset’

Initial research

Growth Mindsets – Dr Carol Dweck

In her book on Mindset Dweck suggests a fixed and Growth Mindset. The desirable outcome is that all students should have a Growth Mindset which allows for resilience and embraces challenge. This is what we want to instil in our students.

With regards to feedback Dweck says that by focusing on personal feedback (praise or criticism), we may affect the mindset of the child, either reinforcing the ego or damaging the student’s motivation to improve. By focusing on tasks and processes, looking at how we can improve, we might help students develop more growth mindsets. A good strategy for effective feedback that builds on the growth mindset might be Hattie’s Three Levels (Task, Process and Self-regulation).

John Hattie: Visible learners for teachers. Maximizing Impact on Learning.

Hattie on feedback:

He states that the purpose of feedback is to enable the learner to narrow the gap in terms of where they are in their understanding of a given topic and where the teacher would like them to be.

Feedback can be provided in many ways – through affective processes, increased effort, motivation, engagement, giving students different cognitive processes etc.

Feedback is placed in the top ten influences on achievement and Hattie argues that feedback works at 4 levels and addresses 3 questions. The 3 questions are:

  1. Where am I going?
  2. How am I going?
  3. Where to next?

The 4 levels are:

  1. Task level
  2. Process level
  3. Self-regulation level
  4. Self level
A model of feedback to enhance learning

From “The Power of Feedback” by John Hattie and Helen Timperley

Where am I going?

Learning intentions are very important here but some teachers often make the mistake of setting objectives which involve students simply finishing the task, completing their work correctly and accurately rather than mastery of a given skill. Hattie argues that if we set challenging goals then they relate to feedback in 3 major ways:

1 They inform students of their progress and can help them track their performance

  1. Allow students to then set further gaols
  2. If there is no challenge to the students then feedback is of little use

Students need to be active in the “Where am I going?” question. It should not be simply created by the teacher; the student should be an active participant in this process.

How am I going there?

This is where progress feedback is essential to move students along. Providing rapid, formative feedback allows students to see what they need to do next to assist their progress.

Where to next?

Pupils need to recognise where they need to go next in order to reach their target. This is more consequential as a result of phases one and two.

The four feedback levels are:

Task level

This is specific and directed and will often be given in terms of “correct “and “incorrect”. It can also be something like “you need to provide more information”. It is the foundation which allows for the next 2 levels.

Process level

Employing different strategies, error detection, and ways to improve. Using different processes in order to complete a task in an improved way.


Student involvement i.e. the student is actively involved in the feedback.


Here praise and feedback about the learning should be kept separate. Hattie argues that praise should be left out of feedback altogether. Students should be praised and made to feel welcome in the classroom but when providing feedback it should be directed and praise should be left out altogether. He says that praise dilutes the effect of the feedback.

How often should we give feedback?

Teachers often give whole class feedback. According to Hattie this has little or no impact as students do not see it as personal to them.

Teachers think they are providing good feedback but students are often confused or find it impossible to apply to their own work.

Students often receive feedback by consulting their peers and this is often incorrect. Peer assessment can have a negative impact on pupil performance as the wrong information is often given to peers.

Types of feedback

Confirmation and disconfirmation feedback

Confirmation and disconfirmation feedback are powerful – confirmation naturally confirms that the student is correct but when disconfirmation is used it can be extremely powerful as it challenges students’ perceived understanding and disproves what they thought was correct.

Welcoming errors

These should be seen as opportunities for our students and not failures. What we do not know but what we could know. Classroom should welcome failure and fear of failure should not exist.

Feedback from assessment to inform teachers

Rather than using summative assessments to identify the gaps in student understanding why not use it as a guide to inform the teacher how he / she is performing in terms of their delivery of a given topic? If the results from a given end of topic test are not as high as anticipated then self-reflection on the teacher’s part is important.

Rapid formative assessment

Black and William who wrote “Inside the Black Box” developed their research and found that rapid formative assessment practices incorporated into minute to minute and day by day classroom activities could have a 70 – 80% increase in the speed of learning. Yeh (2011) agrees and argues that rapid formative assessment is more effective than other interventions such as reduction in class size, summer schools, longer school day, increases in teacher education etc.

William is concerned with feedback during the lesson and argues that short assessments conducted between 2 and 5 times a week can yield a 70% increase in the speed of learning.

William and Black highlight 5 strategies that help this strategy:

  1. Sharing learning intentions
  2. Effective classroom discussions that show student understanding
  3. Feedback that moves the learners forward
  4. Allowing students to monitor one another
  5. Allowing students to become owners of their own learning

Prompts as a precursor to receiving feedback

Asking questions at task, process and self-regulation level. See p.145 of Visible Learning for Teachers: Hattie

The power of peer assessment

This is useful but must be guided by teachers to avoid pupils providing incorrect feedback. Guiding questions, sentence openers, cues, hints and reminders are all important. Scaffolding is important too. This allows students receiving the feedback to carry this forward into their own work and use these questions during their tasks to help them complete a piece of work effectively.

Hattie’s conclusions on feedback

For it to be effective we need:

  1. Challenging goals (learning intentions).
  2. Knowledge of prior achievement.
  3. Feedback should be given out incrementally rather than summatively.
  4. It needs to be focused specific and clear.
  5. The learner needs to be have time to implement the feedback into their work.

On p.153 of Hattie’s book there are exercises for staff to try out with their students. This could then be fed back to their learning hub.

e.g. observe a peer / video yourself and discuss how and when feedback is given and its effectiveness.

Dylan William: Embedded formative assessment

In his book William refers to a study whereby pupils were tested and given 3 types of feedback:

  1. Scores
  3. Scores and comments

The study showed that by far the most effective form of feedback was when the students were given comments alone. Giving scores led to complacency and also demotivation depending on how well the students did and giving scores and comments had a negative impact in the sense that the students focused just on the score and effectiveness of the comment was therefore completely diluted.

Dylan William also suggests praise is dangerous in terms of pupil feedback – the best teachers appear to praise less than average. The quality rather than quantity of praise is important.

Pupils also learn better when the feedback is specific rather than simply giving the students the solution


Teacher: What part don’t you understand?

Pupil: I just don’t get it.

Teacher: Well it is the same as the last problem you did. Then we add one more variable. See if you can find out what it is and I’ll come back to you in a few minutes.

An excellent example of feedback in art was provided by Ian Smith (2008). See p.112.

A simple grid with ticks and crosses communicated to the student where he / she was in terms of their progress. The task was to draw a self-portrait and 7 criteria had to be met in order for the student to be successful. During the task once a pupil had met a criterion the appropriate box would be ticked etc.

Feedback grid for a face drawing task

From Embedded Formative Assessment by Dylan Wiliam

William also argues that feedback can be counterproductive. The table below shows pupil responses to feedback. This is based on the exhaustive studies of Kluger and Denisi who looked at 3,000 studies over a 95 year period (1905-1995) that considered the impact of feedback interventions on performance.

Possible responses to feedback

From Embedded Formative Assessment by Dylan Wiliam

The key is for students to take their feedback and be able to act upon it rather than give up. It is key that students understand that they are not good enough yet but with effort and commitment they can definitely improve.

Dylan William also correctly states that the feedback given to the learner has to be accessible so that the learner can then go on to improve his / her performance otherwise it is not formative. Saying what’s wrong isn’t enough – there needs to be a recipe for future action. Feedback must embody a model of progression.


This is seen to have a negative impact on students as it can promote complacency in able students or encourage a lack of effort in the less able. We should never grade students while they are still learning. Grades can be extremely counterproductive and should be avoided. Comments and directed feedback is much more useful and has a much better impact on pupil attainment than grading.

Types of feedback considered:

The idea that students can constantly resubmit a piece of coursework can promote laziness. Students know that they will receive feedback at each stage and can submit a substandard piece of work initially. Similarly if students get a good grade at stage one they may not bother to improve further. One way to combat this is to allocate 50% of marks for initial submission and 50% at later stage.

When students receive a grade and comment the first thing they do is look at the grade then they look at their partner’s grade and ignore the feedback. One teacher mentioned in William’s book only gives a grade A – pupil work is returned with directed feedback but without a grade and they are expected to resubmit until an A is achieved. Time constraints can mean that students do not achieve an A but the benchmark is set early that every student can go on to achieve a grade A if the required effort is put in.

Some students see feedback as negative. If a student does well they get a “well done” or “good job” but if the student needs go and improve their work then they are given lots of comments. Students who are given corrections to do can see this kind of feedback as a punishment as the brighter students will have fewer corrections as their work is more accurate.

Using a +/- = system works quite well. These scores are given compared to a student’s previous piece of work. Bright students who get a + first time know that they have to keep getting a + or = to maintain their standards and less able students can see that if they get a – then they are motivated to target more and more +s in their work. The key is that time must be given for the students to reflect and act upon the feedback in order to improve their work.

Another successful method is to look over a piece of work and when the teacher sees something that he / she would like the student to reflect upon she places a numbered circle on the piece of work. Then at the end of the piece of work she writes the number and a question next to it and leaves a few lines for the student to respond. There would usually be 3 questions and at the beginning of the next lesson the students have to answer their 3 questions accordingly.

Another point raised is that teachers often spend more time giving feedback than the student does responding to it. Less is often more and the recipient should always be spending more time than the donor. An example in English that worked was when grading an essay the teacher does not write any comments on the essays themselves but does so on strips of paper. The students then have to decide which comment belonged with which essay and why. The impact on this is massive as the students can see what a good piece of work looks like compared with a weaker piece.

In Maths a student does 20 questions and 5 are incorrect. Rather than mark them the teacher writes, “5 of these are incorrect. Work out which they are and correct them”.

In English / History / Languages a teacher places a dot in the margin where a student has made a mistake. The student must find the error in that sentence and correct it. For weaker students the dot can be replaced with s, g, and p for spelling, grammar, and punctuation. This allows the feedback to be focused and is more work for the recipient than the donor.

Feedback in action: Austin’s Butterfly

The video below shows how feedback can be used effectively to reach a desired outcome:

Learning Hub 1 Autumn Term

Presentation available to download below:

Feedback and Critique Hub 1 – 11th September 2014

Learning Hub 2 Autumn Term

For the second HUB session on Feedback I asked the group to prepare a short presentation on how they give feedback in their subject area. There would be time at the end of each presentation for the group to ask questions and discuss the different methods of feedback adopted.  The group liked the opportunity for reflection and the chance to discuss whether the different methods would work in their subject area.

Slide1 Slide2 Slide3 Slide h Slide5 Slide6 Slide7

Once each person had given a presentation we discussed the importance of pupil involvement in the feedback process and devised a set of questions that we thought would be useful. We wanted to create an online questionnaire for pupils in the school to respond to so that we would have some extremely valuable information from them on how highly they value feedback and what kind of feedback works best for them.

Pupil Questionnaire on Feedback

The group were asked to devise some questions which we then whittled down to around ten. At the time of writing the questionnaire has not been distributed yet as we are considering whether or not to change the question format from open and opinionated questions to closed questions. Once the group has decided on this we will produce the questionnaire and examine the results.

At the moment the questions we have decided on are as follows:

  1. Do you find feedback useful in your lessons?
  2. How often would you like to receive feedback from your teachers?
  3. Do you think it is important to keep redrafting your work?
  4. We provide you with opportunities to respond to feedback in lessons.  Which types are the best in helping you to improve your work?
  5. Do different subjects give feedback in a similar way?
  6. If so does this help you to identify what you need to do?
  7. Do you understand what is expected of you when answering feedback?
  8. What is the single most important thing which has helped you improve in any subject?
  9. How quickly do you respond to feedback?
  10. How highly do you value feedback coming from your peers?
  11. When giving feedback to your peers how much time/quality do you give?
  12. Which is the most important to you, receiving praise for what you’ve done well or knowing what to do to improve?

Hub 2 presentation is available to download below:

Feedback and Critique Hub 2 – 6th November 2014

Learning Hub 3 Spring Term

We started the meeting by looking at the pupil questionnaire that we were proposing. The group were not entirely happy with the questions we had put together. As a result it was suggested that we look at some articles / blogs specifically related to Growth Mindset and Feedback and revisit our proposed pupil questionnaire as a result. I therefore shared a number of articles as well as specific page references  from  books including; ‘Mindset’ Carol Dweck; ‘Feedback in Schools’ John Hattie; ‘The Power of Feedback’ John Hattie and Helen Timperley; Growth Mindset: A driving philosophy and ‘Effective Marking Teachers guide’ Hayley Thompson.

The Hub members spent some time reading and we then discussed the following:

What is GM and how is it linked to feedback?

We agreed that students need to know what they are doing well and how they are going to improve. We also agreed that they need to be able to accept critique and value constructive criticism. How can we use alternative words to effort? Trust – students need to trust the feedback that they are being given.

Once we discussed this we revisited and revised our questions. This stimulated some very good discussion. As a result we decided on the following questions:

  • How do you prefer to receive feedback? (Rate/Rank) Grade/Score/Percentage, Grade/Comment Verbal, Comment only, Peer, Self, Pink box/DIRT/Redrafting, Other:________
  • I value feedback the most from: Myself, peers, a teacher (tick one)
  • I receive the best feedback from which subject? Maths, English, Science, Geography, History, RE, Technology, PE, ICT, Performing Arts, Music, Art, Modern Languages, College, Photography, Business, Health and Social Care
  • How do you prefer to redraft? In the lesson, at home, with adult support (in school), adult support (at home), with my peers, on my own
  • Do you receive literacy feedback in your lessons other than English? (yes/no)
  • How would you like your efforts rewarded? Vivos, postcard, stickers/stampers, certificates, Ethic of Excellence wall, my work displayed/showcasing, star of the week, phone call home, other (top three ranking)
  • When I respond to feedback I: do it because I have to, want to get better, know where to get help, feel comfortable asking for help, understand why I am doing it.

We agreed that prior to completing this questionnaire we would put together an ‘Issue of the Week’ style presentation for students to have a look at. This would be a presentation showing a definition of feedback with examples and instructions for completing the task.

It was then agreed that we put the questionnaire to 2 form groups from each of the year groups 7-10.

At the time of writing these questionnaires are now under way and are producing some interesting results.

Learning Hub 4 Spring Term

For Hub 4 the group analysed the results of the pupil voice questionnaire on feedback. We felt that this would help us to determine what our next actions should be.

  • Peer and self-assessment came out as the least preferred feedback from the cohort of students that completed the survey (Year 7, 8 and 10 – 100 students).
  • Students preferred to receive a score or a grade over any other form of feedback (67%) followed by a score and a comment (37%).
  • Students preferred feedback from the teacher (82%).
  • English (41%) and Geography (12%) achieved the highest votes regarding where students feel they receive the best feedback.
  • 75% of the students prefer to redraft their work in the lesson.
  • Literacy feedback was high and consistent across the board (aside from English) in accordance to student response (83%)
  • Students prefer a variety of the rewards for their work and Vivo’s came out as the most popular form of reward (67%), after that contact home was the most popular equally weighted in the form of postcards and letters home.
  • Pupils see the value as the majority want to improve their work (over half – 55%).

The group looked at how we could make the feedback process as less work intensive as possible for teachers but also reward based for the students. Therefore we decided to explore the possibility of using a feedback stamp and post card reward system. We also decided to look into the possibility of creating a ‘how to respond to feedback’ page in the students’ planners.

However, it was decided that the creation of a feedback manual would be a much better alternative to the stamp / postcard system. Therefore we are currently in the process of putting together a Belmont Feedback Manual that draws on the theories and research of key researchers and will demonstrate how different subject areas deliver (and expect students to respond to) feedback.


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