Feedback practices and strategies

Teachers can implement a range of practices and strategies that ensure feedback to students is deliberate, planned and focused on learning intentions and success criteria.

Practices that promote effective feedback

There are 5 practices that can promote effective feedback - combining feedback and instruction, focusing on learning intentions and success criteria, intervening quickly, ensuring the feedback engages students in thinking and allowing time to enact the feedback.

1. Combine feedback and instruction

Effective feedback follows instruction. When student work does not demonstrate at least partial understanding of a concept or process, feedback is not usually effective and the problems are best addressed through further teaching. Hattie & Timperley state that:

A simple clue that a student’s work is not ready for feedback is that you can’t find any legitimate success feedback to offer. When the work doesn’t demonstrate any understanding, don’t give feedback - reteach instead.

To combine feedback and instruction, teachers should:

  • select and sequence the learning experiences (instruction) and integrate with opportunities to gather information about the learning (assessment)
  • intentionally design assessments to occur at ‘checkpoints’ (that is, critical points during the learning where teachers and students engage in assessment to determine who is learning and who needs additional or alternative instruction prior to moving forward with the learning)
  • provide opportunities for feedback from the teacher, from peers, and from themselves (through self-assessment)
  • encourage students to use the feedback to take further action to learn and improve.

Recording patterns of behaviour

Fisher and Frey believe teachers should identify patterns in student errors so they can target instruction or intervention on specific areas of student need. They suggest keeping a table to record student error patterns.

For example, list errors in first column, and note down the initials of students that made the error in the second column. Note: each set of initials in the second column represents a student who made an error.

Error: Students who made the error:
Skim and scan to preview text JC
Sourcing - information source, author, type of document JC  JT  DL  MM  SL  ST  ND  CT
Draw conclusions JC  JT  MM  TA  AA LR  CM  TR  VR  IB  AV  TM  SO  KF
Information available from this pattern analysis:
  • all but one student demonstrated mastery of skimming and scanning
  • fair number of students did not engage in sourcing - and could need re-teaching
  • in terms of drawing conclusions, it would be useful to re-teach the whole class.

By looking for patterns of errors, additional teaching can be designed for the whole class, small groups or individuals to address errors.

2. Focus on the learning intentions and success criteria

Effective feedback directs attention to the intended learning and/or success criteria, pointing out strengths and offering specific information to guide improvement (Stiggins, Arter, Chappius, & Chappuis).

Whatever the form of the feedback, it needs to be explicit about the learning intention and success criteria.

Be explicit about the learning intention and success criteria

  1. Ensure students know and understand the learning intention and success criteria
  2. Limit feedback to these
  3. Attend to surface features every now and again.

Ensure you do not:

  • always focus on the elements of - presentation, quantity, surface features (such as spelling and
    punctuation) and effort at the expense of the learning intention and success criteria
  • do not write/ talk about anything that is not related to the success criteria that you told students
    about at the beginning of the task.

Prioritise feedback

  1. Address the most important needs first
  2. Limit feedback to 2-3 specific recommendations linked to the learning goal/s
  3. adjust feedback based on individual students’ readiness and learning preferences. An
    appropriate amount of feedback for one student might not be enough for another, and might
    overwhelm a third.

Ensure you do not ‘blanket mark’ (mark every error) or expect students to apply all the criteria that they have ever been taught for every task.

Focus on key feedback questions

  1. Ensure feedback focuses on 'What are the goal/s?'
  2. Ensure feedback focuses on 'What progress is being made toward the goal/s?'
  3. Ensure feedback focuses on 'What needs to be undertaken to make better progress?'

Try not to mark errors without making improvement suggestions.

Provide ‘closing the gap’ feedback prompts

  1. Provide reminder prompts based on student needs.
  2. Provide scaffolded prompts based on student needs.
  3. Provide example prompts based on student needs.

Try not to write too much as too much information can be overwhelming and difficult for a student to take in.

Check the adequacy of the feedback

  1. Ask the student what support they need.
  2. Ask the student directly:
    • Is that enough or do you need an example?
    • Do you know what to do next?
    • Is that enough help?
    • What will you do if you get stuck again?
  3. Ask the student to tell you what they think you are trying to say to them.

Ensure you don't assume that students understand your comments or know how to implement the feedback.

Include peer feedback and self-feedback/ reflection

  1. Encourage students to question you and each other to deepen their understanding.
  2. Model and scaffold the types of questions you want students to use themselves.
  3. Provide opportunities for peer and self-feedback prior to the work being submitted.
  4. Provide and work through models and exemplars of quality work, based on the learning
    intention and success criteria.

Try not to expect students to engage in peer and self-feedback without providing instruction and
guidance.

Intervene as soon as possible

  1. Give the most effective form of feedback in the most timely way.
  2. Offer feedback during learning as well as at the end of a task/ assignment.
  3. Check-in with students as they engage in a task.
  4. Formalise ‘check-ins’ - allocate times for ‘check-ins’ during learning.
  5. Engage in a feedback cycle > feedback > action > feedback > action and so on
  6. Limit marking and focus on one or two areas for improvement so that feedback can be provided sooner rather than later.

Ensure you don't wait until the end of a task or assignment to offer feedback, or leave too much time before offering feedback.

Vince Lombardi, a famous American football coach, once stated: Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent. Only perfect practice makes perfect.

In classrooms it is important not to allow students to repeat a mistake or cement a misconception. By intervening promptly, teachers will promote effective feedback provided that they:

3. Ensure feedback requires the student to do the thinking

Feedback needs to be acted upon by the student. Providing too much feedback doesn’t deepen the learning if the student doesn't need to think or do anything for themselves.

Much of the feedback offered to students can be less about improvement and more about corrections of mistakes the teacher has spotted. Comments and questions - such as 'You’ve missed something here.' or 'What should you have put there?' or 'What about these?' - require students to do very little thinking about the learning process.

Instead, pose more open questions to stimulate student thinking:

  • 'Is there anything you could change to make that a proper sentence?'
  • 'Read through this sentence and tell me what you think would make the sentence more descriptive.'

In addition, try to avoid correcting or annotating errors for the student - instead state or write comments that the student can understand and act upon.

Allow time to enact feedback

To demonstrate the importance of feedback, allocate time for feedback to be acted on. Since all feedback requires action, if the teacher wants students to take the feedback on-board, they need to provide the time to do this.

To support this process, teachers need to:

  1. Allow time, opportunity and support for students to act on the information they receive
    about their learning.
  2. Set up routines so feedback can be enacted, for example:
    • read the comments
    • clarify the comments
    • act on the comments
    • seek peer feedback
    • re-submit work.
  3. Break longer tasks into stages and provide feedback which is essential to the successful navigation of subsequent stages.
  4. Expect to see changes/ improvements as a result of feedback.

Ultimately, the only effective feedback is that which is acted upon. This means feedback should be more work for the recipient than the donor.

How to implement feedback

The most important word in any teacher’s vocabulary is ‘yet’.

When a student says: 'I can’t do it,' the teacher needs to respond with, 'You can’t do it yet.'

In summary when implementing feedback:

  • give descriptive feedback where possible
  • focus on feedback that encourages students to think through their learning
  • avoid closed questions in favour of posing more open ended ones
  • keep feedback focused on what's important for the learner - product, process and self-regulation
  • restrict comments to key strengths and areas for improvement that will make the most difference
  • divide the time between collective, group, pair and individual feedback
  • ensure students understand the feedback and give them time and opportunity to respond to it
  • ensure opportunities for peer and self-feedback/reflection
  • identify something that was done well and something that needs improvement - and provide specific suggestions for how to improve
  • provide a range of improvement prompts to guide student learning - reminder prompts, scaffolded prompts and example prompts
  • ensure the feedback provided was useful in helping the student progress in their learning.

Feedback prompts

There are 3 types of prompts that can be used in the moment of teaching that Clarke (2003) has identified.

Range of prompts Learning intention Extract from writing Reminder prompt Scaffolded prompt Example prompt

Why...?

(Justifying a statement)

To write a letter giving reasons for things you say. 'It was dismal.' Say why you thought this. Why was it a dismal time? Why did you hate being there?

Choose one of these or your own: It was dismal because I was bored all the time. / I found it dismal having only my grandad to talk to.

How did you/s/he feel? To retell a story showing people's feelings. 'Nobody believed him.' Say how you think this made him feel. How do you think Darryl felt about not being believed? Do you think he might have regretted anything he'd done? How do you think he felt? Angry that people did not trust him. / Annoyed with himself for lying in the past. / Your own ideas?
Add something To use effective adjective and adverbs in an account. 'Jason was trying to distract him, but the dragon was too strong.' Use more adverbs and adjectives here. Let's use some adverbs to describe how they fought. Fill in the words: Jason tried __ to distract him, but the dragon __ly used his strength to get past. Jason stabbed his sword  __ly into the dragon's nearest side. Improve the fight by using one of these or your own: The dragon's tail lashed viciously, cutting Jason's flesh. / Jason bravely lunged at the dragon, thrusting his sword fiercely into its side.
Change something To use effective adjectives in a description. 'He was a bad monster.' Think of a better word than 'bad'. What kind of monster was he? Change 'bad' for a word that makes him sound scarier. Write it in the box. Try one of these or your own instead of 'bad': ferocious / terrifying / evil
Tell us more To introduce a character in a story opening. 'James went to school.' Could you describe James? What type of boy is James? Good, bad, kind, shy, excitable, loud, naughty? Try to help us know him. James was a .... Describe James' character. Perhaps: James was a kind, likeable boy with a great sense of humour. For instance... / James was often excitable and noisy but would be quiet and serious when he was working.
What happens next? To write a middle and end from a given start. 'At last the merman saw the mermaid.' How is your story going to end? What do you think the merman said to the mermaid before they went home together? Write one of these or your own ending: 'I love you' said the merman. The mermaid took his hand and they swam away. / The merman looked embarrassed as he explained to the mermaid why he had taken so long to find her. She forgave him with a smile.

Feedback strategies

Use the following feedback strategies with students:

  • Use feedback sandwiches:
    • positive comment
    • constructive criticism with explanation of how to improve
    • positive comment or contextual comment: X was good … because …. now/next time …
  • Build reflection time into each lesson for feedback – teacher to student, student to student, student to teacher.
  • Use catchy abbreviations:
    • EBI: Even Better If
    • HTI: How to Improve
    • YNS: Your Next Steps
    • WWW: What Went Well.
  • Use a feedback sheet for students to record ‘What I did well’ and ‘What I need to do to improve’.
  • Give students the opportunity at the feedback stage to write 1 or 2 questions they would like answered to support them in making the identified improvements.
  • Record comments in a Learning Log - students can then refer to these comments before they complete similar exercises.
  • Use symbols instead of writing too much.
  • Use a feedback structure such as:
    • find 2 successes against the success criteria: what students have achieved in relation to the learning intention/success criteria
    • find the part of the work that has most scope for an immediate ‘jump’ (not simply the worst part)
    • write a short prompt telling the student exactly what to do to this part of their work
    • provide time for them to read, process and respond to your prompt.

Three and one marking

Three and one marking, based on the work of Shirley Clarke on formative feedback, has 4 stages:

Stage 1. At the very beginning of new work/ assignment/ enquiry explain to the class that you will be changing the way you will mark their written work, in order to help them make more progress in the future.

Stage 2. Read all of the student's written work through very carefully before making any annotation. Next, highlight 3 places in the writing where the student best met the learning intention/s of the activity. Then indicate (for example, with a star) one place where an improvement can be made to the original work.

Stage 3. Draw an arrow to a suitable place near the star and write a 'close the gap' prompt to support the student in making an improvement to their work. This can be provided in a variety of different forms:

  • Reminder prompt - suitable for more able students. For example, 'Say more about …' or 'Explain why you think this is …'
  • Scaffold prompt - suitable for most students as it provides more structure to improve the work. For example, a question: 'Can you explain why …?' or a directive: 'Describe some of the ….' or an unfinished sentence: 'She shows this by the way she …'
  • Example prompt - particularly supportive of less able students. For example, 'Choose one of
    these statements and/or create your own.' (Provide 2 valid statements for the pupil to select from or use as a model).

Stage 4:

  • Provide time in class to enable students to read and respond to the ‘close the gap’ comment.
  • Use this time to follow up individual needs with 1 or 2 specific students ‘face to face’.
  • Comment upon their improvement at the first available opportunity.

Feedback frames

When using a success criteria rubric, older students can complete a frame themselves before receiving feedback to help them become competent self-assessors.

Stars and stairs

The 'Stars and stairs' frame could be used with younger students. The teacher can draw a 'star' or 'stairs' (a jagged line) on the student's work - with the star indicating what the student is doing well and the stairs indicating steps needed to improve.

For older students, label one section with 'That's Good' for success and 'Now This' for improvement feedback. To monitor the actions students take, add a section where students note what they did with the feedback and identify
one or more aspects that they think have really improved. This could be submitted with their improved work.

Feedback dialogue frame

Students complete the first part before receiving feedback. The teacher then provides the feedback on the form, and the student responds with the plan for what to do next. Source: Chappuis, (2012)

1. Details
Name:
Date:
Assignment/ task:
Feedback focus:

2. My opinion [student]:
- My strengths are:
- I think I need to work on:

3. Feedback [teacher]:
Strengths:
Work on:

4. My plan [student]: What I will do now

Teacher feedback form

Student name:
Title of work:
Conference time:

1. Some things you did successfully:
2. Some things you could improve on:
3. Next steps:
(Note: keep this feedback form to refer to as you revise your work.)

Peer feedback form

Your name:
Peer reviewer's name:
Title of project:
Two compliments about the work are:
Two suggestions about the work are:
(Note: have the peer reviewer use 'I' statements for this step:
- I would like to know more about...
- I am not sure what this means...
- I would like to know more details about...)
Any other ideas or comments:
(Note: keep this form to refer to as you revise the work.)

Traffic light feedback

Show feedback with a 'traffic light' motif - green (good), amber (okay) or red (incorrect). To do this, create a table with 5 columns and a row for each success criteria. Title the columns: Success criteria, Date, Feedback (this is where you include the traffic light), Action taken (to be completed by student) and Completed. (Source: Ontario Ministry of Education, 2010)

References

  • Clarke, S (2003). Enriching Feedback in the primary classroom. London: Hodder and Stoughton.
  • Chappuis, J (2012, September). Leadership for Learning: How am I doing? Educational Leadership, 70(1).
  • Fisher, D. & Frey, N (2012). Making time for feedback. Educational Leadership, 70 (1).
  • 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.
Return to top of page Back to top