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5 Tips for Effective Student Feedback

Feedback is crucial when it comes to improving student achievement in the classroom.

Giving effective feedback during the teaching and learning cycle can be a game-changer to your students’ learning. It promotes personal growth and improvement and guides learners in understanding how to reach a goal (Hattie & Timperley, 2007). If you can observe learning and provide feedback, students will thrive. Here are five tips to enhance the effectiveness of the feedback you are giving to your students, which I have tried and tested in my experiences as a Primary School teacher working with students from Kindergarten to Year 7.

  1. Make Feedback Age-Appropriate

    When we give students feedback, we want to avoid the question, “What does this mean?” To ensure this doesn’t happen, we must provide students with feedback that is clear and concise. The feedback we give must be suitable for the individual student. Rather than giving generic overarching statements to all students, we can personalise our comments to suit each student’s needs. By being sensitive towards the individual needs of the learner, we can encourage growth and change.

    When I am about to provide feedback to my students, I ask myself the following:

    • What can they do…

    • What can’t they do…

    • How does it compare…

    • How can they improve…

    These thinking stems help guide my feedback to ensure I am encouraging productive and supportive conversations with my students (Chappuis, 2012). Another aspect to remember is how important the ‘feedback loop’ is. Interestingly, the most significant impact on student learning is not the feedback input but the steps taken after giving the feedback. Will your students have time to apply the feedback? Will they have a chance to modify and improve their learning? Will you follow up and check-in? These are questions to be mindful of when addressing the feedback loop.

  2. Give Feedback at the Right Time

    We often give feedback to correct mistakes; however, have you ever thought about the power of catching a student doing the right thing and celebrating it at that moment? When we provide this type of positive reinforcement, we give students confidence in their abilities. As a result, when they attempt that same task again, later on, they will believe in themselves. Offering regular and timely feedback helps students direct their energy and attention to the next steps in their learning. When we give students feedback, it allows them to stop, reflect and modify. Learning becomes active, not passive.

    Feedback is best received when learning is occurring. It isn’t beneficial for students to receive feedback about an essay they wrote two months ago. However, providing ongoing feedback throughout the writing process would encourage students to reflect and modify learning continually.

    The timing of effective feedback depends on the task. When students acquire new knowledge, immediate feedback is vital to correct misconceptions or mistakes. Yet, when students are extending or applying knowledge, feedback can be given later on in the learning process to allow students to develop perseverance in their learning.

  3. Focused On Improving Learning

    Teachers need to remember that we are evaluating work that students have put a lot of effort into. So, we have to be mindful of being kind and constructive with our feedback.

    When we give feedback, it is valuable to provide the student with something to ‘act upon’. We need to focus less on correcting mistakes we discover and more on posing provocative questions such as (Fisher & Frey, 2012):

    • I noticed you did this – Can you explain why?

    • Can you tell me more about this?

    • How can you improve this to make it more descriptive?

    • What if we thought about it like this?

    When we engage in these conversations, we encourage the students to think about the learning process and improve their metacognitive skills. After providing students with feedback, we must allow them time and opportunities to act on the input. Feedback will ultimately encourage students to self-reflect as they must read, clarify, and act on comments.

  4. Teach students how to give feedback

    Another way we can promote feedback in the classroom is by teaching students how to give each other feedback. Peer feedback is an excellent tool that can help students develop lifelong skills to self assess and improve their work. Peer assessment involves students evaluating each other’s work according to criteria and then offering feedback suggestions. Rubrics, rating scales and thinking stems are excellent ways to teach students how to give feedback based on set criteria. For peer assessment to be successful students need to be explicitly taught through teacher modelling and scaffolding.

    Some peer assessment thinking stems I like to use are:

    • What went well?

    • Even better if…

    •Your next step is…

  5. Feedback Strategies

    Here are some tried and tested feedback strategies that I have used in my classroom. They are simple and easy to implement.

    Strategy Details
    Feedback Sandwich Provide students with a positive comment, followed by an improvement and end with a positive comment.
    What went well (WWW) This abbreviation is the perfect way for students to reflect on how well they achieved their learning goal and can also work as an exit ticket for a lesson. The ‘What To Improve’ compliments the WWW comment perfectly.
    Reflection Time Allow for time throughout the lesson for reflection to occur. It may be a teacher to student, student to student or even student to teacher. Scheduling time into your lesson will help to make this a routine.
    Before/ During/ After Chart (BDA Chart) A BDA chart allows students to practise the notion of ‘stop, reflect and modify’ as they reflect on their learning throughout the lesson.
    Individual Conferences One on one feedback is powerful as you can be specific and targeted. Keeping an anecdotal record of your conferences can help you manage your ongoing communication with students.
    Goal Setting Completing goal setting with your students allows you to understand specific targets the students have.
  6. Explore these feedback strategies in your classroom and see how they can enhance student learning.

    Read more and references

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