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Effective feedback

Teacher discussing artwork with students.

Specific, descriptive feedback is necessary for improvement and success. How teachers provide suggestions for improvement is critical in "closing the gap" for students.

Teachers who combine strong subject knowledge with effective feedback can offer students rich, focused information about their learning and how to improve it.

Students who are clear about their learning can monitor their progress and seek feedback to improve their learning.

Essential components

Feedback is most effective when:

  • initiated by the student, in conjunction with self and/or peer assessment
  • teachers carefully gauge when feedback is needed to promote learning
  • teachers use the kind of feedback prompt that best meets the need of the students, at the level of support they need
  • teachers provide strategies to help the student to improve
  • teachers allow time for, and students can independently act on, feedback to improve their learning
  • feedback takes place as a conversation
  • teachers check the adequacy of the feedback with the students.

Feedback is most effective when it is given at the time of the learning so that students can make improvements as they go. However, written feedback can be beneficial to learning if the following points are taken into consideration:

  • Some students have difficulty understanding and processing written feedback.
  • When students are presented with grades and comments, the grades can cancel the beneficial effects of the comments.
  • Teachers often give too much feedback, which students find overwhelming and difficult to understand.

These "negatives" of written feedback can be avoided if there is good communication between teacher and student, so that the student can say if the feedback is helpful or not in providing paths for improvement.