Sunday, July 31, 2011

Feedback Strategies

I'm continuing to read my summer reading book from school about feedback and I'm now on the section that deals with different feedback strategies.

Timing - it's best to give immediate feedback so that students can use it, while they are still working towards their learning goal and so that they have time to act on the feedback.  Feedback about a topic that has already finished is pointless.

Amount - teachers often want to "fix" everything when they give feedback, but it's best to give just enough feedback so that students know what they need to do, but not enough so that the work has actually been done for them.  Effective feedback gives a usable amount of information to students, connecting with what they already know and letting them know what they need to do to move onto the next level.  Comments need to encourage students to think about their learning, but also to show that the next step is within their grasp.

Mode - sometimes it's best to give written feedback, sometimes oral and sometimes demonstrations.  Often the best feedback is through conversations with the student.

Audience - feedback about individual work should be addressed to individual students but sometimes the message is relevant to a whole group of students.  Providing feedback to the whole class or to a group of students can take the form of a mini-lesson or review.

Feedback about the task involves giving information about both the errors or misconceptions and the depth and quality of the work.  However feedback about the task may not transfer to other tasks, therefore often the feedback that contributes most to learning is feedback about the process used to do the task.  When you talk to students about how they approached the task it lets them see the link between their efforts and the quality of their performance and in this way it helps students learn how to learn.  It also allows students to understand that their achievements are related to specific strategies they are using and that the effort they put in is under their control - achievement is related to what they did rather than to their ability - and this increases their confidence in themselves as learners.

Often feedback involve comparing students with a standard or a learning target.  Comparing students or ranking them in relation to each other is not useful as it reinforces the false idea that ability rather than effort is important and can be a demotivator for students who have not been very successful.  Pointing out what is poor or wrong without offering suggestions for improvement is not helpful feedback - being positive involves pointing out what where improvement is needed and suggesting what students can do to get better.   As mentioned in a previous post, the best feedback is descriptive - even criticism, if it is given in a descriptive way and not a judgmental way, will be constructive as it describes what can be done and what strategies will lead to improvement of the work.

Photo from the World Bank Photo Collection AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works 

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