Feedback that works
Willy A Renandya – 10 Feb 2022
The question of how to give effective feedback (i.e., one that helps students improve on their subsequent performance) continues to be a mystery.
Different types of feedback seem to work for different types of students. Some like detailed feedback, i.e., they expect the teacher to correct all mistakes. Others prefer focused feedback (i.e., feedback on specific aspects of their speech or writing, e.g., contents, language or organization).
The rest of the students don’t seem to have any specific preference. Detailed and focused feedback sometimes work well; at other times, they don’t seem to have any discernible effect on their performance.
We do however know from research and experience that more often than not teachers tend to provide detailed and negative comments and corrections on student mistakes.
In other words, we tend to pay more attention on what students CANNOT DO. We believe that that is our job as a teacher is to correct student mistakes,
Rarely if ever do we spend time highlighting, praising and affirming what students CAN DO. We seem to believe that if students for example already know how to use the correct tense in an essay, there is no point in commenting on what students have already acquired.
While this belief seems logical, current research tells us that learning should be seen as a continuum: from initial and often rather superficial understanding all the way to deeper and more nuanced understanding about how things work in different contexts.
This being the case, it is a good practice for teachers to give balanced feedback, i.e., one that provides students with information about what they already know so that they can further extend their learning, and what they are not good at yet so that they can do better next time round.
The short piece that appears in Edutopia “How to give positive feedback on student writing“ offer a nice perspective on the importance of providing positive feedback on our students’ writing.
You might also want to watch a video clip on how to give a more motivating feedback to your students by Prof Icy Lee, which she presented in a recent webinar organized by the British Council, Indonesia.