CCE #5: Article | Writing Effective Feedback
Do the phrases “Could do better”, “Need Improvement”, “Keep up the good work” look familiar. What do these statements mean? When students read the phrase “Could do better” on their assignment sheets, what does it tell them. They definitely know that their work needs improvement. But they have no idea about what area needs improvement. Was their entire assignment off the track, or were there some bits that were on track while others needed to be revised?
Likewise, if students read the phrase “Keep up the good work” on their assignment sheet, what does it tell them. Yes, it’s clear that their work was good, but are we saying that they have achieved perfection and are a master on the topic? Do they have any scope for improvement or scope to challenge themselves further?
What about grades and scores, for example, what does 8/10 or 6/10 given for an essay mean to students. Apart from the obvious fact that the 8/10 student has written a better easy, the score does not tell the student anything else. It does not highlight or appreciate the good points of the essay and neither does it provide guidance on what the student should do to achieve the 10/10 mark.
Think about it, how would you feel if during your appraisal process, your supervisor only gave you a score or a standard phrase. Where would that leave you. Yes, you would be left exactly where you currently stand because you would not know what you need to do to move ahead.
It’s time look take a deeper look into how we provide feedback and invest that extra effort in communicating effective feedback to students. Because, everyone, including us, wants to move ahead, and unless we don’t receive effective feedback we won’t be able to do so.
In this article we look at the definition of feedback and its features and we provide links to resource guides that explain how to give effective feedback to students.
What is Feedback?
Feedback is information about the gap between the actual level of displayed learning and the reference level of learning (Ramaprasad, 1983)
Students given marks are likely to see it as a way to compare themselves with others; those given only
comments see it as helping them to improve. The latter group outperforms the former. (Ruth Butler, “Task-Involving and Ego-Involving Properties of Evaluation: Effects of Different Feedback Conditions on Motivational Perceptions, Interest, and Performance”)
It is not an evaluation of good and bad but an exploration of what helps and hinders learning and why. In all, feedback gives everyone the chance to slow down, to breathe, to make sense of where they’ve been, how they got there, where they should go next, and the best ways to get there together – a decision made with students, rather than for them. (Rodgers, 2006, p. 219)
Features of Effective Feedback:
In their research, Marzano, Pickering, and Pollock, suggested that feedback needs to the “corrective” in nature, timely, specific to criterion, and student involved.
John Hattie suggested that feedback should:
- focus on the learning intention of the task
- occur as the students are doing the learning
- provide information on how and why the student understands and misunderstands
- provides strategies to help the student to improve
- assist the student to understand the goals of the learning
In the following video, Dylan Wiliam talks about the importance and impact of giving learners effective feedback.
Video: Feedback on Learning
Changing the way we give feedback takes practice and conscious effort. But, once we adapt to the change, we are very likely to be amazed at its results for the students and ourselves.
We’ve listed below some resources that list and explain simple tips and techniques for giving effective feedback to students. We hope you find them useful.
- Writing Feedback Using Descriptive Starters [PDF] – This resource explains features of effective feedback and provides examples of effective feedback statements.
- Giving Effective Written Feedback [PDF] – This resource discusses the roles of assessments in the course design process and explains how effective feedback can support learning.