One of my pet peeves is when teachers don’t give me good feedback to help me do better on my assignments. I had a language arts teacher in high school who used to always write “good job” or “great!” on sections of my paper, but then take 5-10 points off of my final grade for no visible explanation for it at all. It drove me crazy! I wanted to make my next essay better, but how could I without knowing what I had done wrong? Today I want to help you understand how you can use your feedback to help your students, not drive them up the wall.
In my Instructional Design and Assessment class, Professor Wilkinson taught, and I agree with, these “seven keys to effective feedback” written by Grant Wiggins:
1. Goal-Referenced – This means you clarify the goal of this task for the students and let them know whether their performance accomplishes this or needs to be changed in order to meet it. (ex. “This does not persuade me to your side of the argument.”)
2. Transparent – We often think we are giving feedback by saying, “Good job!” or “That’s not quite right,” but these are too vague to be useful. Good feedback should be specific and easily understood.
3. Actionable – When we give students feedback, we want them to be able to take that and use it to make their next effort better. When the teacher above took points off of my paper, she was not giving me ways to make my next paper better and thus dooming me to make the same mistake again.
4. User-Friendly – Too much or too technical feedback does not help students at all. Instead of giving the student every single instance where they could fix something, try giving them just one thing they could improve that would change their whole performance. Make sure your choice of words can be easily understood by the student. (P.S. this includes using neat handwriting that your students can read easily.)
5. Timely – We all have had teachers that don’t get around to grading quickly enough or don’t return our assignments until after the next one is due. How can we do better on our next assignment if we don’t know if we did it right the first time yet? Wiggins points out that the technology of today helps with quick assessment.
6. Ongoing – Rather than waiting until the final assessment to give feedback on how to improve performance, use little assignments and assessments throughout a unit or topic to give feedback that students can use before it’s too late. Keep giving your students the chance to improve and grow.
7. Consistent – This is the key I had to think the most about. Wiggins points out that different teachers have different ideas of quality. In order to be consistent in your feedback, teachers need to collaborate to come up with similar ideas of quality. This will lead to less confusion and frustration for your students over the years.
I think these principles are useful no matter what grade or subject you want to teach. In fact, They can be applied to grading projects, addressing comments in class, or working one-on-one with students who need extra help. We want to help our students improve themselves in their work, not make them feel like their work will never be good enough for us. Try them out!