The Key to Student Achievement

Teachers often don’t agree on issues of pedagogy.

That said, all teachers would probably admit that feedback is a good thing. Feedback comprises the core of formative assessment. It is one of the most powerful influences on student achievement. But what does good feedback look like? It is one of those educational terms that is often difficult to define and put into words. Feedback is usually thought of as advice, praise and evaluation. In general though, it is information about how we’re doing in an effort to reach our goals. It is descriptive not evaluative. It is a continuous process that is given consistently throughout the year. Some simple questions that can be used to communicate with parents and guide feedback are:

What can the student do?
What can’t the student do?
How does the student’s work compare with that of others?
How can the student do better?

Balanced Mix the positive and the negative. 

Providing feedback means giving students an explanation of what they are doing correctly and incorrectly. However, the focus of the feedback should be based essentially on what the students is doing right. It is most productive to a student’s learning when they are provided with an explanation and example as to what is accurate and inaccurate about their work. Use the concept of a “feedback sandwich” to guide your feedback: Compliment, Correct, Compliment.

Timely – Don’t wait too long. 
When feedback is given immediately after showing proof of learning, the student responds positively and remembers the experience about what is being learned in a confident manner.  If we wait too long to give feedback, the moment is lost and the student might not connect the feedback with the action. The most useful feedback is therefore often verbal.

Specific – Give details and plan of action. 

Saying “good job” is not feedback! General praise and comments are not effective ways to help students improve. It must not be vague or ambiguous. Try to include examples to illustrate your statement. This is when rubrics become a useful tool. Effective rubrics provide students with very specific information about their performance, comparative to an established range of standards. 

Kind – Be sensitive to the individual needs of the student. 
Our feedback should be ‘hard on content, soft on people’. It is vital that we take into consideration each student individually when giving feedback. Our classrooms are full of diverse learners. Some students need to be nudged to achieve at a higher level and other needs to be handled very gently so as not to discourage learning and damage self-esteem. A balance between not wanting to hurt a student’s feelings and providing proper encouragement is essential.
Limited – Concentrate on one ability. 
It makes a far greater impact on the student when only one skill is critiqued versus the entire paper/assignment being the focus of everything that is wrong. Too many instructions are overwhelming. It’s more likely that the student will improve when one piece of advice is offered at a time. Start with something small and slowly work towards the larger issues of concern.
Personal – Have a one-on-one conference. 
Providing a one-on-one meeting with a student is one of the most effective means of providing feedback. The student will look forward to having the attention and allows the opportunity to ask necessary questions.  A one-on-one conference should be generally optimistic, as this will encourage the student to look forward to the next meeting.

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