Written by Belinda Huang
Feedback is one of the most important tools for a teacher. It is how teachers let students know how they are doing in class, and what skills or subjects might need improvement. Without good feedback, teachers cannot help students learn. Whether it comes in the form of a test grade, a written response, or an after-class conversation, here are some tips to keep in mind for giving effective student feedback.
When should you give feedback?
Feedback works best when it occurs regularly and as soon as possible. A 2011 study shows that people who receive immediate feedback performed better than people whose feedback came later. While immediate feedback isn’t always possible, try not to delay feedback for too long. Also consider whether to give feedback during or outside class. Calling up each student for one by one feedback while the rest of the class works on an activity avoids feelings of exclusion. Out of class feedback can usually be reserved for longer or more in-depth conversations.
Treat all your students as individuals.
As much as possible, feedback should be one-on-one and personalized for that student’s performance. It is more useful to compare a student to their own past performance than to compare them to the best student in the class. What goals does this individual student have? Framing feedback in terms of their goals can help students understand what they need to do. If a student wants to be an architect, then you can talk about why mathematical precision is important to them.
Be specific and focus on the process or task.
Feedback should be about a specific skill, behavior, task, or piece of content. “Good work!” is not as meaningful as “You used all the vocabulary words correctly!” Students also feel “higher confidence and greater investment of effort” when feedback about a task provides direction for how to strategize for better results next time, according to a 2007 study. Remember, feedback should not be about the student’s ability or personality — it should be about their work.
Give praise when needed.
Positive and specific feedback is just as important as constructive criticism. Sincere praise can be highly motivating. Why not call a student’s parents to let them know how well they did on a test? Again, be specific in praising performance on the task and not the person, and don’t compare students. A 2006 study explains that it can put extra pressure on students or even demotivate them when competition becomes the goal.
Be open with feedback.
Let your student know why you are giving them this feedback and what it means. Give your students access to their grades and past assessments, and let them see their work for themselves. Often, as a 2017 study found, negative feedback without support and context makes people disengage from their goals and care less about achievement. Make sure students understand that you are not comparing your students, or trying to control their studies.As a teacher, you are trying to help them succeed. It is important to be kind and fair.
Giving feedback can be a difficult task. What’s the right tone of voice, or level of friendliness to use? How do we know if it even helps? Only experience can help you find the right fit for you and your students. Use these five tips to incorporate regular, individual, and specific strategies for student feedback, and watch them grow!