Instruction: Giving Effective Feedback

Reflecting on Teaching – There were elements of feedback that I have known to be practiced skills for an educator. For example teachers should return feedback in a timely manner. They should not write offensive or insulting phrases to the student as judgement for their work. Good teachers allow students to correct their own answers and misconceptions and turn in formative assessments multiple times. The logistics of feedback have usually been clear and simple but the content and method, how to give feedback that a student can accept, internalize and grow from, that is an art. 

Hattie & Timperley (2007)  write that effective feedback must answer these 3 questions:

Where am I going? or What are the goals?

How am I going? or What progress is being made towards the goal?

Where to next? or What activities need to be undertaken to make better progress?

Brookhart (2008) goes in depth looking at the four components or elements of effective feedback content: Focus, Comparison, Function and Valence. In terms of academic or written feedback, the most effective type of feedback to give to students is focused on the task or process, rubric-based, descriptive and positive.

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Summary Chart of 4 main elements of feedback content (Brookhart, 2008)

Another aspect of giving feedback is precision. According to Hattie & Timperley (2007) feedback has the most impact “when goals are specific and challenging but task complexity is low” (pg. 85). By giving students targeted feedback that centers around one or two main skills or points, teachers can give clear objectives for students to improve their learning without overwhelming them with various corrections. Targeted feedback does not only have to do with the task, it takes into account the pattern of each individual student’s growth and the next step they can take to make progress.

On a writing assignment I provided several students with feedback on their paragraphs and later gave them a test with an identical prompt on it to see how effectively the received and practiced the feedback. In each student’s case I provided an individual, similar comment to guide them toward strengthening their answers with text details. I then also instructed the whole class on editing these paragraphs and what citing text evidence looks like. While giving the same type of feedback to each student I saw various different effects. One student, a strong writer, added in citations to their original paragraph which she then cited on her test. Another student made no changes to his paragraph following the class lesson, but inserted text evidence citations in his test. In both cases I saw how individual students responded in different ways to my feedback.

As one of my classmates, Randy, noted, feedback is about progress and finding those ways to connect and understand my students, to listen not only to what they are saying and writing, but what they are not saying and writing to effectively communicate my support to them. Even though it may sometimes feel like one step forward is two steps back, the best teachers I have had knew my character, tendencies and personality and not just the grades I made on paper.

What I have come to realize, as part of giving feedback on a daily basis, is that it is equally as important for educators to receive feedback from their students. As educators we must model the behaviors that we expect from our students, and that includes learning from mistakes and working through our own misconceptions. Perhaps students may not provide the same type of feedback as fellow educators, nonetheless honestly asking students for ways that we can support them to be more successful may yield new perspectives. The feedback loop is as much a tool to build student achievement as it is to build trust. As I continue growing as an educator I hope to continue growing my heart and humility, that I may give and receive feedback graciously and with purpose.

References:

Brookhart, S. M. (2008). How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Hattie, J., & TImperley, H. (2007). The Power of Feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81-112. Doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.3102/003465430298487

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