Five Tips for Giving More Meaningful Feedback to Students.

A client that I am working with recently asked me an interesting question. 

She said, “Bill — I know that the most meaningful feedback in classrooms is feedback that students gather about their own learning, but the fact of the matter is that teachers still have to give feedback to their students.  It’s a basic expectation.  So what can my teachers do to improve the feedback that they give to their students.”

Great question, right?  

I think what I loved the best is her recognition that nothing is more valuable than the feedback that students gather about their own learning.  Dylan Wiliam calls that “turning feedback into detective work” — and I dig that analogy.

(click here to view full-size image on Flickr.)

But teachers DO give students tons of feedback — and there ARE steps that they can take to make the feedback given to students more useful.

Here are five tips followed by quotes from the educational experts who have pushed my thinking about the quality of the feedback that I provide in my classroom:

(1).  Be Clear.

“Students often find teachers’ feedback confusing, nonreasoned, and difficult to understand. Sometimes they think they have understood the teacher’s feedback when they have not, and even when they do understand it they may not know how to use it.” 

— John Hattie.     (p. 8 in this bit)

(2). Be Brief.

“Students differ in their capacity for responding to correction, and too much corrective feedback at one time can cause a student to shut down, guaranteeing that no further learning will take place.  In such cases, consider letting go of the urge to provide all correctives necessary to make the work perfect and instead provide as much guidance as the student can reasonably act on.” 

— Jan Chappuis        (p. 39 of this Ed Leadership issue)

(3).  Encourage Thinking, Not Compliance.

Second, whether your feedback is oral or written, choose your words carefully.  Describe the work’s strengths and give at least one suggestion for a next step that is directly in line with the learning target.  Use words that suggest the student is an active learner and will make decisions about how to go forward, not words that suggest a student should use the feedback by complying with a request.  

— Susan Brookhart        (p. 29 of this Ed Leadership issue)

(4). Leave Off the Grade….For Now.

When students receive both scores and comments, the first thing they look at is their score, and the second thing they look at is…someone else’s score.  Being compared with others triggers a concern for preserving well-being at the expense of growth.

— Dylan Wiliam          (p. 34 of this Ed Leadership issue)

(5).  Provide Time for Action.

When students get feedback on a performance that’s not followed by an opportunity to demonstrate the same knowledge or skills, feedback will fail.  Feedback “so they know better next time” is a waste of energy. This isn’t the students’ fault, and it doesn’t mean they didn’t take your feedback seriously.  It’s just a characteristic of how people learn.

— Susan Brookhart         (p. 28 of this Ed Leadership issue)

So which of these tips makes the most sense to you?  Which one would be the hardest to pull off?  Which one could you start using right now?

(And remember:  If you are interested in learning more about the role that feedback can play in the work that you do with students, you can check out Creating a Culture of Feedback — the short book I wrote with my buddy Paul Cancellieri.) 

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Related Radical Reads:

New Slide:  Turn Feedback into Detective Work

Google’s New Comment Bank is a Win for Meaningful Feedback

Peer Feedback Matters

One thought on “Five Tips for Giving More Meaningful Feedback to Students.

  1. Pingback: Activity – Evaluating the Feedback Teachers Give TO Students. | THE TEMPERED RADICAL

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