Marking and written feedback in science

Feedback sits at the top of Professor John Hattie’s table of effect sizes on education performance. Written feedback is an important part of the overall feedback machine. So, what does effective written feedback look like in science education? Below are some of the dos and don’ts of written feedback. Ideas are taken from Black and Wiliam (1998).

Please download the blank quadrants to use in your own training sessions on written feedback.

Effective written feedback in science

Do make sure:

  • Tasks are sufficiently open to allow students to make thinking visible
  • Feedback focuses on the particular qualities of his or her work
  • Advice is given on what students can do to improve. This must be phrased in a way that students can understand
  • Pupils are trained in self-assessment so they understand the main purposes of their learning
  • The dialogue between pupils and a teacher is thoughtful, reflective and focused to evoke and explore understanding
  • Tests and homework are clear and relevant to learning aims
  • Each student is given the opportunity and help to work at improvements


  • Make comparisons with other pupils
  • Comment overly on quantity and presentation; learning is the important bit!
  • Overemphasise grades and marks
  • Write standalone questions that don’t refer to the work just marked
  • Spend time marking closed questions – this can be done by a machine!
Further reading

Black, P. and Wiliam, D. (1998). Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom assessment. Granada Learning.

Elliott, Victoria, et al. (2016). A marked improvement? A report from the Education Endowment Foundation.


  1. Peer assessment in science
  2. Assessing scientific skills in science
  3. Summative assessments in science
  4. Question level analysis
  5. Written feedback in science