Feedback to students

Providing students with effective feedback contributes to learning and achievement. When teachers provide frequent, constructive and instructive feedback it can bridge the gap between current and desired student outcomes.

A beginning teacher is sitting next to a male student in a school playground setting. He is holding his exercise book open on his lap whilst she is providing him with oral feedback on his work.
Image: Feedback to students can take many forms. Oral feedback can provide an opportunity for the teacher to check-in and ascertain if the feedback has been understood.

Research shows

Research has established the importance of providing students with effective feedback.

  • Hattie’s meta-analysis of the effect size (ES) of influences on student achievement places feedback at the top with an ES of 1.13 - an ES of 0.6 or greater is usually considered to be ‘large’.
  • Timperley and Hattie further explored the influence of feedback - finding it is one of the most powerful influences on learning and achievement, and pointing out that the impact of feedback can be positive or negative depending on the type of feedback, the timing and the way it is given.
  • Dinham adds that bad feedback can be worse than no feedback - if feedback is to be effective it needs to be frequent, constructive and instructive.
  • It’s the quality of the feedback rather than its existence or absence that determines its power.  (Stiggins, Arter, Chappuis, & Chappuis).
  • Descriptive feedback is the most powerful tool for improving student learning - feedback that focuses on what needs to be done can encourage all to believe that they can improve (Black, Harrison, Lee, & Wiliam).

Feedback essentials

In summary, if feedback to students is to be effective, it needs to:

  • relate specifically to a learning intention/goal and the associated success criteria
  • be timely, that is, immediate or soon after action
  • reduce the discrepancy between desired and current understanding by answering three major questions:
    • Where am I going? (What are the goals?) - 'feed up'
    • How am I going? (What progress is being made toward the goal?) -  feed back'
    • Where to next? (What activities need to be undertaken to make better progress?) - 'feed up'.
  • support students to monitor their own progress and achievements.

Reflecting on the feedback you give

Teachers can reflect on the quality of their feedback with these questions:

  • Do you give clear, concise feedback related to the learning goals?
  • Do you identify what was done well, and what needs improvement?
  • Does your feedback include how students can improve?
  • Are your students expected to act on your feedback?
  • Do you provide the necessary time for students to act on the feedback?
  • Do you follow up on the feedback?

References

  • Black, P., Harrison, C., Lee, C., & Wiliam, D. (2003). Assessment for Learning: Putting it Into Practice. New York, NY: Open University Press.
  • Chappuis, J. (2012, September). Leadership for Learning: How am I doing? Educational Leadership, 70(1).
  • Dinham, S. (2008). Powerful teacher feedback. Synergy, 6(2).
  • Hattie, J. (2003, October). Teachers Make a Difference: What is the research evidence?
  • Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The Power of Feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1).
  • Stiggins, R. J., Arter, J. A., Chappuis, S., & Chappuis, S. (2004). Classroom Assessment for Student Learning: Doing it right - Using it well. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.
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