Top Five Tips on Effective Feedback

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If you haven’t noticed, the FIP Your School Ohio team has been trying to feature effective feedback on the blog recently. We’ve unofficially dubbed this month “Feedback February.” Mostly because we like good alliteration, but also because feedback seems to be getting a lot of buzz right now—from the feedback loops between administrators, teachers, and students to leveraging the immediate feedback of gaming.

Why is feedback so important? A meta-analysis of almost 8,000 studies from Hattie and Timperley discovered that feedback is nearly seven times as effective in improving student learning as reducing class size. They found that feedback is “the most powerful single modification that enhances achievement” (2007).

I thought this would be a good time to revisit what makes feedback effective. Here are our top five feedback tips:

1. Effective feedback should direct attention to the intended learning.

Hope you’re not sick of hearing about learning targets yet, because they are the foundation for every other component of formative instructional practice, including effective feedback. By definition, feedback is not effective if it’s not moving students toward a specific target aligned to the standards.

This is true in the context of adult learning too, by the way. Feedback should be relative to an expectation that is understood by all parties involved. A colleague of mine recently said, "It’s human nature to rise to expectations—after we know what those expectations are." So true!

2. Effective feedback can be teacher to student and student to student.

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It’s a misconception that feedback is most effective when it’s given from teacher to student (or supervisor to employee, for that matter). There is power in peer feedback, especially if students are taught to give feedback. Talk about using your resources—leveraging other students to deliver feedback can be a huge time saver for teachers. How are you helping your students learn how to give effective feedback to each other? Leave a comment below; I’m really curious to hear about the strategies you’re using for this.

3. Effective feedback should occur during the learning.

Feedback is most effective when it is delivered while the learning is occurring. I recently visited Kate’s classroom and I was amazed when I saw her taking class time to do mini-conferences with each student. She explained to me that it was so much more effective for them and for her. Instead of taking time to write detailed feedback on papers only to see them tossed because the feedback wasn’t timely, she used class time to give students immediate feedback while they are immersed in the learning.

4. Effective feedback addresses partial or total understanding.

This is an interesting one; the idea is that you’d actually be better off re-teaching than spending time giving oral or written feedback to a student who doesn’t have sufficient understanding to act on your feedback. This actually goes back to collecting accurate evidence of student learning—do you know what your students know?

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5. Effective feedback does not do the thinking for the learner.

The best feedback helps students think, which in turn helps them improve their learning. Questioning is a great technique for delivering feedback. For example, a question such as, “Can you find two more places to add specific details to support your thesis statement?” might be better than telling a student exactly what details to add and where to put them. How does your feedback provoke additional thinking?

Do you have other tips to share about effective feedback? Leave them in the comments below.

Want more like this? Check out Module 4: Analyzing Evidence and Providing Effective Feedback. Or, check out the new FIP in Action modules, which highlight how effective feedback can be delivered in the context of new standards.

 

Hattie, J. & Timperley, H. (2007). The Power of Feedback. Review of Educational Research. 77(1), 81–112. doi: 10.3102/003465430298487