Feedback in the Moment is Key
It is incredibly useful for students to receive meaningful, targeted feedback in the moment to be able to build proficiency and competence. It is not easy, however, for teachers to provide ongoing, meaningful feedback to classes that may run in excess of 35 students. We discuss below some of the key considerations for teachers as they provide feedback and offer ways that teachers can provide meaningful, targeted responses to students without giving up the entire weekend to grading papers.
Look for and comment on one area of improvement at a time only. When the student gets the first thing right, you can move on to the next thing - but stick with one thing at a time.
Start With BRoader Concepts
Just because we say to focus, doesn’t mean that your focus needs to be laser sharp. If the issue, for instance, is that a student did not follow the directive word in a prompt or question, make the feedback about finding and using a directive word, applied to your particular situation rather than the specific error that the student has made without the broader context of the situation. In this way, the feedback goes beyond the particular assignment or task and can help the student expand his or her learning to encompass a broader context.
Have the Student Suggest the Area to Improve
Students are often their own worst critics, but they also sometimes be guilty of skipping steps or ignoring a key element of the task at hand. Give the student a rubric, checklist, or other guide to assess his or her own work. Make it the student’s goal to judge how well he or she did on a particular task. Your question to the student, “What would you like me to help you improve?” Your feedback is then given on an area that the student chooses - in the process making him or her more receptive as the student has initiated the feedback.
Don’t make students play hide-and-seek with your feedback. Be clear and specific as to what feedback you are giving and offer the student a path to be able to correct what it is they need to fix.
Make Sure the Student Knows What to Do
The student must have the capacity to use the feedback to improve his or her practice. This means that he or she needs to have successfully conquered the know phase so that he or she can use what has been learned. As above, if a student does not have the “know” foundation, reteaching may be the best opportunity. It is important to keep in mind that “know” does not simply mean knowing concepts or ideas from the curriculum - this could also mean having a working understanding of the academic language of school and the classroom. A student who does not know the difference between define and explain, for instance, must resolve that issue prior to being able to engage meaningfully with a prompt that calls for one or the other.
Once feedback has been given and received, it is important to follow up and either redirect to the next successive approximation and/or give praise for a job well done.
Don’t Be Afraid to Reteach
If there are too many areas that need corrective feedback, it may be time to think about reteaching the skill or concept in question. That said, feel free to comment on as many positives as you see - and make sure that you include at least one positive to help keep the student moving forward.