5 Research-Based Tips for Providing Students with Meaningful Feedback
In recent years, research has validated what the vast majority of educators already knew: that giving students meaningful feedback can significantly improve both their learning and their accomplishments.
James Pennebaker, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin, has been conducting research on the positive effects of frequent testing and the feedback that results from it. “When people are trying to learn new skills, they must get some information that tells them whether or not they are doing the right thing,” he explains, “They must get some information that tells them whether or not they are doing the right thing. The process of education in the classroom is not an exception. Learning by making mistakes is necessary not only for acquiring knowledge but also, and perhaps more importantly, for acquiring knowledge of how to think.
The drawback, of course, is that not all forms of feedback are equally effective, and some forms of feedback can even be counterproductive. This is especially true when the feedback is delivered in a manner that is solely critical or corrective.
How exactly can one make the most of the opportunities provided by feedback within educational environments?
There is no simple or quick solution to this question; however, the following are five suggestions based on research that can help teachers give students the kind of feedback that will boost their motivation, build on their prior knowledge, and assist them in reflecting on what they have learned.
1. BE AS SPECIFIC AS POSSIBLE
Helen Timperley and John Hattie, both professors at the University of Auckland, wrote a summary of the existing research titled “The Power of Feedback,” in which they emphasised the significance of providing students with detailed information about the aspects of their performance on which they should focus on improving.
Feedback such as “Great job!”, for instance, does not inform the learner of what he or she did correctly. Similarly, a statement such as “Not quite there yet” does not provide the learner with any insight into what they did incorrectly and how they can improve their performance in the future.
Instead, the researchers advise taking the time to provide learners with information on what exactly it is that they did well, as well as what may still need improvement in their performance. They also point out that it is helpful to tell the learner what he or she is doing differently than in the past.
Has there been a change in a student’s performance or has it gotten better since the last time you evaluated her? Inform her of it, even if she has a long way to go before reaching that point.
2. THE SOONER THE BETTER
According to the findings of a plethora of studies, immediate feedback, as opposed to feedback provided a few days, weeks, or months later, is the most effective form of feedback.
One study compared immediate feedback to delayed feedback and found that participants who were given immediate feedback showed a significantly larger improvement in performance than those who were given delayed feedback. The researchers behind this study came to this conclusion after finding that participants who were given immediate feedback showed an increase in performance.
Another study conducted at the University of Minnesota found that students who were given a great deal of immediate feedback were better able to comprehend the information that they had just finished reading.
Naturally, it is not always possible to provide students with feedback right there and then, but giving it to them sooner rather than later is almost always preferable.
3. ADDRESS THE LEARNER’S ADVANCEMENT TOWARD A GOAL
According to Timperley and Hattie, effective feedback is typically centred on a particular accomplishment that students are working toward (or should be working toward). When providing feedback to students, it is important to make it crystal clear how the information they are receiving will assist them in making progress toward their ultimate objective.
4. PRESENT FEEDBACK CAREFULLY
Because the manner in which feedback is presented can have an effect on how it is received, this means that sometimes even the most well-meaning feedback can be received in the wrong way, which can reduce a learner’s motivation to continue with their studies.
Edward Deci, a psychologist and author, has identified three scenarios in which providing feedback could be detrimental to the intended outcome:
When learners have the perception that they are being monitored excessively closely, they may experience feelings of anxiety or self-consciousness, which leads to a disengagement from the learning process.
When students incorrectly interpret feedback as an attempt to exert some form of control over them: Learners may sometimes misinterpret feedback as an attempt to control them or as guidance on how they should be doing something, rather than on how to improve their performance in a given situation.
When students get an uneasy feeling of being in competition with one another: When learners receive feedback from their peers in a group setting, they may get the impression that they need to compete with one another. This is yet another factor that can lead to a lack of interest in the material being learned.
In order to prevent scenarios like these from occurring, Deci recommends providing learners with a comprehensive explanation of the goals of any monitoring and ensuring that they comprehend the feedback’s intention to assist them in competing against their own personal bests rather than with one another.
5. INVOLVE LEARNERS IN THE PROCESS
It is impossible to overstate the significance of actively involving students in the process of gathering and analysing data based on their performance. According to Pennebaker, “Students must have access to information about their performance…. Students need to have a broad understanding of whether or not they have actually mastered the material before moving on to the next level. It can be very helpful to provide them with information regarding the methods that they use for studying, reading, conducting information searches, and responding to questions.
When students have access to this information, they are able to develop an awareness of their own learning, are better able to recognise when they have made mistakes, and can eventually come up with strategies to address areas in which they struggle on their own.