July 8, 2021

EEF: Teacher Feedback to Improve Pupil Learning – Part 3

In this series of summer term blogs, Emma Adcock, Director of Training and Research, summarises the central messages that run throughout the latest guidance from the EEF ‘Teacher feedback to improve learning’.

The central messages that run throughout the latest guidance from the EEF ‘Teacher feedback to improve learning’ state that teachers should:

  1. Lay the foundations for effective feedback, with high-quality teaching that includes careful formative assessment.
  2. Deliver appropriately timely feedback, that focuses on moving learning forward.
  3. Plan how pupils will receive the feedback using strategies to ensure that pupils will act on the feedback offered.

If schools are to deliver these guiding principles effectively, they require a carefully designed and thoughtfully implemented feedback policy. In my second blog, I explored principles 3 and 4:

  • Plan for how your pupils will receive and use feedback.
  • Carefully consider how to use purposeful and time-efficient, written feedback.

In this third blog, I will be focusing on the guiding principles of principles 5 and 6:

  • Carefully consider how to use purposeful verbal feedback.
  • Design a school policy that prioritises and exemplifies the principles of effective feedback.

Principle 5 – Carefully consider how to use purposeful verbal feedback.

Verbal feedback is an integral aspect of effective instruction that can be delivered in a variety of ways. It can be a structured one-to-one discussion; alternatively, it can be spontaneous, such as a quick prompt “You could do with more detail in that answer.” It can be directed to an individual or a specific group. It can accompany written feedback, or it can stand alone.

The central message, as with written feedback, is that before it is provided, effective instruction should be deployed. It should focus on moving learning forward, and teachers should plan for how pupils receive and use it.

The EEF review has revealed that the conversational aspect of teacher feedback supports pupils in using the feedback. Teachers reported that when a conversation is had with a pupil, it is easy to identify if they have understood their next step.
At Grove School in Wiltshire, teachers deploy whole-class feedback with the aid of visualisers. Instead of discussing work individually with each of them, teachers use visualisers to share and collectively discuss examples of work. They use a handwritten sheet of comments which summarises the strengths and targets for the entire class, before moving onto a small number of examples from books that exemplify some of those strengths and weaknesses, using the visualiser to further highlight these to the class.

What might effective verbal feedback look like in the classroom?

Targeting verbal feedback at the learning intentions – you may have designed a ‘pre-flight checklist’ at the outset of the task for the class. This checklist may have set out the success criteria for the task, ensuring that all were clear about the learning intentions. Your verbal feedback, whether at an individual or whole-class level, could refer specifically to this, providing a targeted and focused discussion.

Action points – pupils find it difficult to process detailed verbal feedback. Encouraging pupils to write down on a post-it note (or record in a recording device) may overcome the transitory nature of verbal feedback. It is crucial that opportunities are then provided for pupils to act on this feedback and close the feedback loop.

Verbal feedback using a visualiser – pupils may find verbal feedback to be too abstract. By offering feedback whilst showing a previously completed piece of work via a visualiser, the teacher can maintain both focused feedback on the task whilst also using the example to model and discuss the learning intentions.

Video or audio recording the Covid-19 pandemic led to teachers adapting and using new digital modes of feedback. Some platforms offered teachers the opportunity to record verbal feedback for pupils. This could be used to provide pupils with feedback they could replay, which could support their retention of the feedback.


Principle 6 – Design a school feedback policy that prioritises and exemplifies the principles of effective feedback.

The following insights can guide school leaders, to work with colleagues to make constructive changes to feedback policies to support changes in practice:

Avoid the over-specification of the wrong things – the key is to balance what you need to specify (principles of effective feedback) with what you do not (specific frequency, method, pen colour, the use of feedback stamps) The focus of any feedback policy needs to be on improving learning.

Be clear on your purpose – effective feedback should be focused on enhancing the learning of pupils. 31% of primary and 20% of secondary teachers reported that they provided feedback to satisfy the SLT.

Costs associated with feedback practices need to be carefully considered – Where possible, time-efficient methods should be suggested – to mitigate teacher workload. The exact methods should be decided by the teacher, but a policy could offer suggestions for how to make methods more manageable.

Demonstrate helpful worked examples of effective feedback practices – A number of teachers have suggested that the inclusion of examples of different types of feedback and modelling of feedback styles would improve training.

Expectation management – pupils value feedback on their learning. You will need to communicate any changes in your practice so that they understand the ‘why’ of any new approach to feedback. Parents also put value on feedback for their child’s learning. Often, written feedback in books is one of the overt ways a parent can find out whether teachers are engaging with the learning of their child, and so any absence of written feedback can elicit negative references from parents. Carefully orchestrated conversations with parents could be beneficial – along with pupils – to communicate any substantial changes to feedback practices.

If you would like support to do the following:

  • Evaluate and refine your school’s assessment policy
  • Gain an overview of formative assessment
  • Explore what formative assessment can offer your learners
  • Trial and evaluate innovative formative assessment strategies that can be used in any classroom.

I recommend that you look at our Assessment Project for 21/22. 

Emma Adcock
Director of Training and Research

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