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Last reviewed on 7 October 2020
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Stay on top of remote feedback so that you’re well-prepared to help pupils learn at home if necessary. Get top tips from school leaders across the country to help you deliver personal and engaging feedback even when it’s not face to face.

You must offer immediate remote education if:

  • Individual pupils or groups of pupils need to self-isolate, but the rest of the school is still open; or
  • There are local or national restrictions that mean most pupils need to stay at home, like during the initial school closures in March

You're expected to have a contingency plan for remote education in place, and this should include how you plan to allow pupils to access feedback form their teachers.

This article is full of inspiration from school leaders, plus some planning ideas from Julie Keyes, an educational consultant. Find out more about our contributors at the bottom of the page. 

Prepare to switch back to remote feedback

Get ready to get laptops to pupils 

The DfE has announced that if there’s a local coronavirus outbreak, it’ll provide laptops and tablets for children who would otherwise not have access to remote education.

Find out which pupils have access to a device (ideally one they won’t have to share). Ask these questions ASAP so you can make a priority list – this will save you time if a local lockdown means pupils suddenly have to learn at home.  

Use our template IT equipment loan agreement to help you manage loaning out devices. 

Let parents know how you'll approach remote learning 

Adapt and share our letter with parents to summarise expectations and outline your plans for home learning in the case of local or national restrictions, or pupils needing to self-isolate due to coronavirus.

Make sure everyone stays familiar with your school's platform of choice

At Preston Primary in Eaglescliffe, teachers will keep using Seesaw even when teaching in the classroom, so they can make sure all of their pupils can use it with ease before any local lockdowns happen. 

At LEO Academy Trust schools in south London, pupils will continue to use laptops in the classroom to hand in work and receive feedback on Google Classroom, to enable a smooth transition if they have to go into local lockdown.    

Consider how and when feedback will be most effective

List all the ways you'd give feedback in person 

When teaching remotely, it’s easy to forget all of the ways you’d give feedback to pupils if you were in a classroom. 

Write them down so you can be sure to replace them with remote alternatives (you’ll find engaging and time-saving ideas for these in the next sections of this article). 

Think about the differences between how and when you’d give:

  • 1-to-1 feedback at a pupil’s desk 
  • Whole-class verbal feedback 
  • Individual written feedback

Find solutions that work for you for different types of feedback 

During lockdown, pupils and parents at LEO Academy Trust schools emailed pictures of completed work (set via the school’s distance learning websites) to teachers, who responded with brief feedback emails to celebrate pupils’ achievements.

It felt the same as a teacher praising a pupil’s work as they passed their desk. As this was quick, easy and popular with parents, the school will be keeping it up as part of their blended learning approach. 

However, to make sure they’re continuing a personal and developmental conversation with pupils, teachers are also using the Mote ‘voice note’ add-on to Google Classroom to give spoken feedback.

Plan when you'll give feedback each week 

Avoid overwhelming your teachers with endless feedback requests by sequencing feedback across the week. Try:

  • Starting the week with verbal whole-class feedback 
  • Sprinkling some individual verbal feedback throughout the week 
  • Keeping written feedback to a minimum – see how one school cut this down by 75%
  • Wrapping the week up with some video feedback to celebrate individual work 

See how to deliver all of these types of feedback remotely in the next section.

Engaging remote feedback that worked in lockdown and can work again

Use videos to showcase pupils' work

At Charles Dickens Primary School in Southwark, pupils and parents emailed photos of their work directly to teachers – once a day if possible. One of the ways teachers gave individual feedback was via a daily video message, which showed examples of good home learning.

In the video below, a teacher displays photos of pupils' work on a screen behind him and gives children "shout-outs" to praise their work. This also helped to maintain a sense of class community, reminding the children of their classmates' names and faces. Find out other ways to keep your school community connected during closure.

(You don't need a big screen at home to do this though: posting photos of the work online would work just as well alongside your video.)

Video source: Charles Dickens Primary School, Southwark, via YouTube

 

Find out more about how to make YouTube videos for effective teaching.

Leave 'voice notes' on pupils' work  

The Olive Tree Primary School in Bolton used audio feedback to offer its high number of families with English as an additional language feedback that didn't involve reading emails or long comments. 

Teachers used the cloud-based app Showbie to view and comment on pupils' work. Pupils uploaded photos of what they'd done, and teachers added 'voice notes' so pupils could hear their teacher's voice giving them specific, personalised feedback – just like they would in class. 

Pupils could hear their teacher's voice giving them specific, personalised feedback – just like they would in class

Watch a short clip of how it works here.

The school expected teachers to mark their pupils' work with audio feedback within the week. Voice notes were time-stamped and the senior leadership team could see everything too.

Use a combination of audio and visual feedback

At Henlow C of E Academy in Bedfordshire, staff used Loom to leave audio comments. This was particularly useful for maths, where pupils needed further explanation within their feedback. 

In the event of another lockdown, they’re planning to use Loom over Classroomscreen for whole-class feedback, so they can write on the screen while talking. 

Recreate a "virtual school gates" with pupils and parents

Mayflower Community Academy in Plymouth used Twitter to keep an open dialogue between staff and families.

Parents uploaded photos of their child's home learning on Twitter, with comments, and teachers or the headteacher responded as soon as they could, via their professional Twitter account. The feedback was either learning-focused or more general praise.

See this in action in this Twitter thread.

Teachers were only expected to do as much of this as they felt comfortable with, and only within their working hours.

Save time with these 4 top tips 

1. Use digital stamps 

In the same way that you’d use rubber stamps, you can use digital stamps to save time on written feedback.

See some examples from Julie Keyes here (along with a simple guide to how you'd use them in Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams).

2. Record videos that serve multiple purposes 

Recording videos can take a while, so save yourself some time – Graham Macaulay at LEO Academy Trust recommends giving feedback on one lesson and introducing the next in the same video.

3. Say what you want to type 

Use dictation software such as Mote (which works with Google Classroom) and OneNote (with Office 365) so that you can give feedback without even having to touch the keyboard.

4. Give instant praise 

At Charles Dickens Primary School, teachers made the most of not having to wait by the printer during lockdown by awarding digital Star of the Week certificates.  

They also posted a quick daily message on each year group’s page of their 'virtual school' website, including motivational feedback on the previous day’s work.

 

Sources

Many thanks to the following school leaders for letting us share their approaches:

And to Julie Keyes, educational consultant, for her advice on how to plan out and mix up your remote feedback.  

Note: we refer to several commercial providers in this article, based on our discussions with school leaders. This is by way of example only – The Key doesn't endorse any particular products.

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