Delivering Effective Feedback Through OneNote

A few days ago I posted an overview of how I use Microsoft OneNote, both when remote teaching but also when back in the classroom. However, I wanted to expand on possible ways to use it to deliver effective feedback. If you are unfamiliar with OneNote or Class Notebook (which are the same thing) you may wish to check out my previous post first: How I Use OneNote.

Given feedback is often cited as a major cause of workload-related stresses and pressures, it’s more important than ever we don’t regress to ineffective and inefficient feedback practices during this period of remote learning. OneNote can help.

There are a few different modes of delivering feedback that can be achieved through OneNote, specifically:

1. audio feedback
2. whole class feedback
3. model responses as feedback
4. live feedback
5. written feedback

Let’s look at each one in turn.

Audio Feedback

When not remote teaching I tend to use QR coded stickers to provide audio feedback and so this is a method of feedback my students are already familiar with, but it is made all the easier with OneNote. As below, it is possible to insert an audio recording alongside any submitted work that the student has completed by simply clicking ‘audio’ in the ‘insert’ tab:

The student can then listen to this feedback, pressing pause, fast forwarding, and rewinding as they see fit, as below:

The audio note can be stored next to the work itself and in the student’s personal work space, meaning it’s in the exact same place they uploaded the work. They don’t need to go searching for it, instead it’s right there next to the work. This also means other students cannot access or listen to the audio note, but you can copy and paste that audio note and add it next to other student work if it’s applicable to more than one student. Any audio notes are then stored in this location forever and replayable as many times as desired!

This makes this function a quick and efficient way to deliver personalised verbal feedback, even when remote teaching. It also helps to ensure a point of contact when students might otherwise be feeling alienated or distant from school life. They can even leave you a note too! I don’t think this social aspect of audio feedback ought to be underestimated.

The danger, of course, is that this just becomes a more efficient way to deliver lots of summative comments or we get into the territory of a high-tech version of triple impact marking where you leave an audio note to which they respond to which you respond again…!

To mitigate against this, I’ve tried to make sure any audio note is as precise as possible in its feedback, anchored to a specific section of the essay (typically highlighted), and would usually include some kind of action I expect the student to take. It might also be I ask students to make a note of a key takeaway based on the feedback they’ve listened to, maybe typing this next to the note or at the end of the essay. They would be given time in lesson to listen to any audio feedback.

Whole Class Feedback

When not remote teaching, WCF is my primary way of delivering feedback to my classes, but it can still be used at a distance.

When at school, my typical process would be to treasury tag a WCF sheet into student books and then to store this sheet in the Notebook for future reference, using this stored sheet during the feedback lesson itself. As such, the only major change is that it’s no longer tagged into student exercise books! As seen below, I store these WCF sheets in a section of the Notebook called Reverse Engineering which is the name I give to engaging with model responses:

When delivering this WCF in a lesson itself, I would tend to zoom in and out of the relevant section of the sheet so that students can focus on, say, feedback and highlights at the relevant point. As I’m sharing my screen, students would see my Notebook page and so see these zooms in and out in real time.

For the feedback and highlights section, I would typically share with the students examplar work and show them what makes it so good, explaining exactly how they are meeting whatever success criteria might we might have been working towards. These excerpts can be snipped out and copied next to the WCF sheet in the Notebook and students can then, in their own personal workspace and next to their own essay, jot down anything they’ve seen from these exemplars they would like to note, although they would be stored for future reference next to the WCF sheet too.

Another really excellent feature of OneNote when using it to deliver WCF is that students can complete the feedforward task in their own personal space, meaning no one else can see their work, but that the teacher will be able to see their progress in real time. This means teachers can monitor the work that is being completed and provide in the moment feedback as and where necessary.

It would also be possible to record the feedback lesson and then store a link to it next to the WCF sheet itself for future reference.

Model Responses as Feedback

A really effective way of delivering feedback to students is to think about model responses, and, as outlined in the above discussion of WCF, I dedicate an entire section of my Class Notebook to what I call ‘Reverse Engineering’. This is where I store model responses for future reference, my own and the work of students, according to the texts that I teach, as below:

When used as part of delivering feedback, I might share my screen with students and talk them through a model response, highlighting what it is doing well. Or, I might, again sharing my screen, show them something that looks like the below, asking them to consider their essay in light of the model responses and targeted questions:

You could also create directly into the Notebook a guided model response, as below, by copying/pasting the response itself and adding the text boxes via OneNote’s insert shape functionality.

It would then be possible to distribute this guided model to each student so they have a copy in their personal workspace. They could then type their reflections directly in the boxes, as such thinking about and engaging with the model response and the questions you have posed. No one else would see these reflections, as it is done in their personal section of the Notebook, but you, as teacher, would be able to monitor each one, either in real time or after the lesson.

In each instance, the Notebook becomes the medium through which an engagement with model responses is facilitated as well as being the place they are collated and stored.

Live Feedback

A really useful feature of OneNote is that it updates and syncs in real time, meaning any work produced by a student in their personal work space, can be visible to the teacher more or less immediately. This means that a teacher monitoring or popping into these personal work spaces during a task will see what the student is writing as they do so. This of course also means that any comments written by the teacher in the same space will be visible to the student in real time too.

In the below example, for instance, a student is in the process of completing an essay task by typing directly in their personal section of the Notebook. They have been given independent time during the lesson to do this whilst the teacher is on hand to address any questions. The teacher is also using this opportunity to dip in and out of student work spaces and whilst doing so is offering live comments to help address, in the moment, any misconceptions or errors:

The student then has the ability to recalibrate their work in light of the teacher’s comment, and all of this is done without the knowledge of any other student.

This kind of monitoring and live feedback can be done at any point and in response to any task, not just extended essay writing. It is a great way to offer targeted support during independent tasks. For this reason, I tend to ask students to complete any set task, whether an essay or something smaller, in their personal workspace so that everything is in one place and feedback can be given, as with this, in the moment or afterwards.

Written Feedback

Of course, one of the most time consuming and laborious ways of delivering feedback, this is still an option on OneNote should you wish to use it. There would be two ways to do this, assuming in both instances students have previously uploaded their work into their personal section of the OneNote. You can simply type your comments in the margin of the essay or at its end or, if you have the technological capability, digitally ink comments as reading.

There’s nothing revolutionary about this and indeed it’s not the one I would use, preferring instead any of the above four strategies, but it is nonetheless an option. It is useful to know too that any comments would be automatically saved in location for students to easily revisit at a later date.

Using the Review Student Work Function

This is an excellent way to save time when reviewing work or providing feedback and is the digital equivalent of students handing in their exercise books at the correct page. It allows you to quickly glance at a certain page of your class’s work one after the other.

For example, if I’ve asked all of my class to complete work in the Macbeth section of their personal section I can select ‘review student work’ and then select that page and it will, one student after the other, allow me to check who has completed what. It can be used in conjunction with all of the above feedback strategies in order to save time when jumping from one student to another, but it can also be used more generally after a lesson to get a sense of exactly how much work has been completed. It’s also a really efficient way to compile WCF as you are moving from one essay to the next without need to reupload each student’s profile.


Hopefully, this offers some ways of thinking about feedback when remote learning and how OneNote can be harnessed to deliver effective feedback, even when not physically handling student work.

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