‘No Marking?’ Better Feedback?

Posted in Inspiration & Ideas

Learning to Catch a Ball: How Effective Feedback Works in Real Life

I recently acquired a beautiful rescue puppy. Along with the many new skills I’m now attempting to acquire (some more challenging than others) it’s become very apparent that my ability to throw a ball for him to retrieve needs some significant improvement!

This ties in very nicely with an area I’ve become increasingly interested in regarding how we can best use feedback to support progress and, furthermore, reflect upon the dominant role marking currently plays in this process.

I recently spent time with an inspirational teacher who has been trialing new approaches to feedback with her Year 2 class and assessing both the benefits to their progress and her daily workload. Our discussions led to me to wonder whether there was a way of simply synthesising what she’d experienced working so successfully and sharing these findings more widely.

So, let’s return to my need to improve my throwing ability. How can this scenario help us understand what effective feedback looks like and move our practice on?

Having reflected upon this over time, there seem to be three components that need to be in place; all interacting with each other. This is perhaps best illustrated with a diagram:



Component 1: ———- The Big Picture 

To understand what I’m aiming for (being an expert ‘thrower’), I need to see others throwing successfully. Carefully observing the body stance of someone getting ready to throw and what happens at each stage gives me the ‘big picture’ regarding what ‘expert throwing’ looks like. This creates a destination; essential for me to judge my progress against as I begin to improve.


Component 2:     Regular Responsive Input from an ‘Expert Other’

To learn a new skill, un-do any ineffective ‘habits’ and make progress, we must have input from an outside source. Specific, responsive modelled advice. Just the right amount of input that can take it onboard, sufficient challenge to move us on to the next stage but not so much as to overwhelm us and limit our likelihood of success.


Component 3:        Time for Purposeful Practice

Having received this input, we must now have time to practice and improve. Repetition is essential to create to bring about a greater level of ‘mastery’. Only time spent focusing and applying this new way of acting and thinking will bring about any cognitive change to long-term memory.


So, what happens when we bring these three elements together in one diagram showing the whole process?



This view of effective feedback raises lots of important questions. Questions which must be carefully reflected upon, analysed and acted upon. Some of my thoughts at this stage include:

Giving Effective Feedback:

  • How do we, as the learner, best receive this feedback? Verbally? Using written notes? A combination of both? As part of a group? As an individual? A combination of both?

How Effective Are Our Current Systems of Feedback?

  • Are the systems we currently have in place and use daily fit for purpose?
  • Are they bringing about the progress we know children are capable of?
  • Is the destination known and clear to the learner?
  • Is there sufficient time for the learner to practice and improve?
  • And finally, do the ‘experts’ giving the feedback know enough? Is their own subject knowledge and expertise accurate and constantly improving in order to impart the right amount of knowledge at exactly the right time for the stage the learner has reached in their journey?


Karen Wilding is an Independent Primary Mathematics Consultant, published author and conference speaker working across the UK and internationally. She passionately believes that, given the right learning environment, everyone can learn mathematics successfully.


Web: www.karenwildingeducation.co.uk

Email: info@karenwildingeducation.co.uk

Facebook: Karen Wilding Education


                                                                                             July 2019

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  • Thank you for showing us HOW to change. So many courses just tell us what isn't working but not how to go about addressing this. Your approaches make so much sense! 

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