Whole-class feedback and DIRT time in Science

At my school we have a policy that states:

  • Feedback must be given every 2 weeks for core subjects, every 3 week for others
  • Feedback must include the format WWW (what went well) and EBI (even better if)
  • Feedback must have a meaningful ACT task that moves the learner forwards
  • Students must complete ACTs in purple pen during DIRT (directed improvement and reflection time)

I think this is a pretty standard set of requirements, and I am lucky that my SLT are happy for us to use whole-class feedback or indeed any method that saves time, as long as these four criteria are adhered to.

In the past I have seen this sort of format lead to distortions in the teaching of science as it seems better suited to “whole piece” sort of work such as pictures, essays and projects rather than difficulty model subjects like science. It is easy for teachers to fall into planning many more investigations and far fewer short questions than really match the science curriculum, because it is much easier to create WWW, EBI and ACT statements for whole investigations.

Where pupils have been studying the kinetic energy equation, for example, what kind of comments do you put?

WWW: You answered questions 1,2,4 and 9 correctly.

EBI: Use the formula correctly.

ACT: do questions 3,  5, 6,7 and 8 again.

This is just a very longwinded way of saying


and as such is a terrible waste of time.

Our SLT want books to show a “learning journey”. What this means is that students need to be getting better at the subject over time (fair enough) and this should be visible in exercise books. This can be quite a challenge in science because the curriculum should be the progression model[1]. We could make a learning journey more visible by going mad for “transferrable skills”: graphs, tables, conclusions etc., and doing these on every topic. There are some elements of these that students can get better at and would show up in their books. But if we did that, it would be at the expense of the rest of the curriculum and that would be cheating our students. This is not to say that we don’t want to teach our students these skills: it is just that we want to give them their proportionate curriculum time and no more. We want to teach them because of their intrinsic value and not because they will help us show something in books.

So WWW, EBI, ACT and learning journeys can cause problems for a subject like science. Nonetheless, we are making it work in our department and we are pleased with the results. Below is how we are doing it:


  1. Whole-class feedback (WCF) sheet (above) is created and centralised. They are printed on green paper and cut ready in a filing cabinet in the science office, although staff can adapt and print their own if desired.
  2. WWW and EBI statements are taken from the specification.
  3. We usually add in an “explain how X principle manifests itself in Y scenario”.
  4. The teacher ticks each statement under “WWW” or “EBI”. If a student got the questions wrong, didn’t get onto it, or was absent, it’s EBI. If the student has done everything they should have done in the lesson, the “manifestation” statement is a worthwhile statement for their EBI.
  5. ACT NOW tasks linked to each EBI.
  6. ACT ALWAYS tasks designed to improve the general quality of the student’s work over time, by building the transferable skills of revision techniques.
  7. SPAG is marked on the page by underlining the mistake.
  8. Tick boxes for the teacher to check quality of work and responses to previous ACTs.
  9. Tick boxes for the student to tick as a nudge to complete each part of their DIRT.

When we mark books, the only green pen that goes in is some ticks and circles on this WCF sheet, underlining SPAG, and a “*MC” next to misconceptions. We create a powerpoint slide as we go along with spellings. I create a separate slide which I don’t project but refer to during DIRT time with the names of students I need to talk to about any misconceptions, or the quality of their work, or if they have been absent and need to catch up. We are very fortunate in that our school supports us in issuing (centralised, 1 hour) detentions for insufficient work. If the amount of work is clearly insufficient and is obviously due to laziness or pratting around I just issue the detention straight away. If it’s borderline I always have a conversation first but if it doesn’t improve then I go ahead and issue the detention. This has a massive impact on the quality of work and behaviour and engagement.

When we have DIRT time, the lesson goes as follows:

I project the WCF sheet (shown above) and go through each statement.

I briefly re-teach anything that has flagged in misconceptions. Although only a few students have had this show up in their books, other students will benefit from hearing it dealt with explicitly.

I go through each ACT NOW and discuss success criteria. Usually I will project this on a slide along with the spellings:


I go through one ACT ALWAYS and discuss success criteria. I work my way through each ACT ALWAYS so that hopefully after a term or so I will have covered all of them.

Then we have DIRT time. I like to have this in silence so students need to tell me before we start if they are unsure what they need to do. Each ACT must be properly resourced with either a textbook/booklet page identified or a pro forma/ list of keywords to use. During this time I can get round to students who had a misconception and re-teach them thoroughly if needed. An example of this I had recently was students drawing the normal line for ray diagrams wrong. They needed actually showing close up, and their positioning of the ruler on their page physically corrected. But other members of the class had mastered this area and so would be held back by me spending whole-class time on it.

In non-DIRT lessons, I remind students to continue their ACT ALWAYS. I plan a weekly 10, 20 or 30 minutes where they can practise a technique they have been asked to do for their ACT ALWAYS. In this way we are explicitly teaching our students how to revise and we are able to show a learning journey as students’ repertoire of revision techniques grows. We are encouraging spaced practice by revisiting previous topics periodically and applying ACT ALWAYS techniques to revise them.

These WCF sheets need resourcing. We are creating “Practice booklets” for each unit which contain a quiz-sheet, a mind-map/ graphic organiser template, and past paper questions. These booklets have page numbers and students are not allowed to write in them. We also have SLOP[2] for some units so that we can print off single practice sheets where needed; we can also requisition textbooks.

We are pretty happy with this system. It seems to meet all the school’s requirements whilst staying true to our subject. It takes an hour to do a class set of books really well, if you are making the sheet for the first time. Obviously it is less if the sheet and slide are already made. We like the nudge of the tick-boxes and we are so pleased to finally be explicitly teaching revision. Students are accountable for their work and all gaps in understanding are addressed.

I’d be interested to hear what colleagues in other schools think of our system. I’ve put a link to some of our WCF sheets below, including a template; if any departments out there want to get involved and share sheets then please do get in touch. Thanks!

Whole-class feedback sheets

[1] Thanks to Christine Counsell for this concept.

[2] Shed Loads Of Practice – see here


6 thoughts on “Whole-class feedback and DIRT time in Science

Add yours

  1. Hi Rosalind,

    I really like the idea of the WCF sheets and have a few questions. Do you mark books at a set stage through the topic? I guess if the sheets are centralised then mainly this is the case. I’m also really interested in you ACT ALWAYS tasks as I agree that explicitly teaching revision strategies can only be a good thing. I’d love to hear more about these in action. I’m going to discuss them with one of the TLR holders in the dept and I’ll hopefully trial them at KS4.
    Best wishes,

    1. Hi Ian, we don’t quite feed back at set stages in a topic. We do fb every 2 weeks and the sheets just fit in give or take a couple of lessons. I’ve just done feedback on a set of books and they’d finished one topic and started the next, so my feedback didn’t refer to the new topic, but I’ll include that in my next feedback if that makes sense!

      1. Hiya,

        It makes a lot of sense.
        I’ve just shared the template with the department I work in and I will try them out next time I mark my Y10 books. We have checklists for each unit that can be used for www/ebi and once you get the hang of it, the ACT tasks are really straight forward.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: