Learners need endless feedback, more than they need endless teaching

“Learners need endless feedback, more than they need endless teaching”. (Grant Wiggins)


Trial HSC Examinations across NSW have either just finished or about to begin. Students prepare for their trials, they sit them, teachers mark their exams and give them back their results, students spend about one minute looking at their marks.

This is a common cycle that exists in not only HSC classrooms, but in classrooms all over the world with summative tasks. Students deserve better, they deserve to get explicit feedback from their teacher/s about how they did in their examination. After all, in most HSC exams- including PDHPE and CAFS they complete a three hour paper!

For the feedback to be effective, William (2011) reminds us that it MUST provide a recipe for future action and for this to happen it must be designed so as to progress learning. Like in sport, feedback must provide information for students to break down into components and they need to be practiced until fluency is reached.

Hattie and Timperely (2007, p.86) suggest irrespective of the source of feedback, any feedback provided by students/peer or the teacher must answer the following pertinent questions:

1. Where am I going? (What are the goals)

2. How am I going? (What progress is being made toward the goal?)
3. Where to next? (What activities need to be undertaken to make better progress?)

Hattie and Timperley (2007, p.102) believe that the answers to these questions also “enhance learning when there is a discrepancy between what is understood and what is aimed to be understood”. This also has been described by Sadler (1989) in his feedback model where the interpretation of the evidence of learning is used to identify the gap and adaptations/responses are made to learning needs when executed successfully, close the gap in student learning. Similarly, Wiliam and Leahy (2015) discuss the need to provide feedback especially when educators find out that students have not learned what was intended. This sort of discovery needs intervention and often feedback provides that way forward.

This all sounds great, but as busy teachers our time is limited as we attempt to manage our multiple commitments. Here are some simple strategies that have been trialled extensively in my own classroom over the last few years.

1. Provide WIN Feedback (Bell, 2014).
W– What you did well.
I– Improvements to be made.
N– Necessary actions to make those improvements.

At the end of the student’s exam paper, you can write the three letters and simply provide the student with a couple of points per area of feedback. Including the students in the feedback is also a great way to improve a Growth Mindset as they attempt to complete any area of feedback as self-reflection.

2. Use a data tracker. By tracking student responses and crunching some statistics you are simulating what the NESA RAP packages do. You can get an overall picture of how each student has performed, look for patterns in their understanding and even more powerful is the feedback that the data can give you to help you improve as a teacher.

3. Share exemplar responses amongst the class. This is another great way to empower your students and mirrors what can be done with the NESA PDHPE and CAFS standard materials. 

With their permission, it is very beneficial to share well-answered responses that students in your class wrote. This has a twofold effect, firstly other students can see what the expected standard was and secondly the class can seek assistance from those students who are writing well to help improve their knowledge, understanding and skills.

4. Have students resubmit responses to see if they can implement the changes and provide feedback on their resubmissions.

5. Practice, practice, practice!

This goes without saying. Show your students where they can find past HSC questions on the NESA website, purchase or develop multiple trial examinations for your students to use as practice and then provide feedback on the responses that your students submit.

There are a plethora of other ideas that teachers and their students can use to improve their results after the trial examinations. If you want to discover some more strategies to move your students forward, we would love for you to come along to either of our Improving Student Performance workshops! More details can be found here:


Let’s work smarter and not harder (thanks Nat Littler!) and share some more ideas with each other via our social media pages on Facebook and Twitter

To get you on your way, here are some simple CAFS samples that you can use.

Yours in health and wellbeing,

Kelly Bell
Nagle College, Blacktown South
President of ACHPER NSW



Hattie, J. and Timperely, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77, 81-112.

Saddler, D. R. (1989). Formative assessment and the design of instructional systems. Instructional Science, 18, 119-144.

William, D. and Leahy, S. (2015).
Embedding Formative Assessment. Victoria, Australia: Hawker Brownlow Education.

Wiliam, D. (2011).
Embedded Formative Assessment. Bloomington, IN, USA: Solution Tree Press.



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