Should you give a score with your feedback?

When teachers mark work, it is incredibly common to give a grade or a score, alongside a constructive comment on the work - perhaps explaining the strengths and weaknesses of the work, or how to improve it.

This seems like common sense, but is totally counterproductive.

There’s nothing wrong with giving a student a summative score or grade to let them know how they are doing relative to a target.

There’s real value in highlighting strengths in the work, and explaining how to improve.

The problem comes in doing these together.

All studies on this, and all my experience shows, that where the two are combined, the value of the comment is totally diminished. Students will not pay attention to feedback on how to improve where they receive a score.

The only form of feedback that actually shows any improvement in student achievement in studies is comment only.

This does not mean that you should never provide scores or grades.

The best approaches might be to select certain pieces of work to provide comments on and then return these to students for improvement (never mark if they don’t improve it - see separate tip), and select other pieces of work to score or grade.

Another approach might be to allow some time on the work, provide comments, allow improvement time, then provide a final score or grade.