A guide to providing effective teacher feedback
We've built a Teacher Feedback feature into the Teacher Dashboard to help you provide direct, individual feedback for your students in instructor and student-led sessions. But you need more than a mechanism for delivering feedback to provide clear, instructive guidance to students. We know this skill is critically important to good teaching. It’s also very difficult to do! To support you, we created a simple guide to help provide clear, effective feedback.
We can agree that effective feedback is more than:
- A letter or number grade
- Simple words of affirmation
- Unclear critiques
Grades sum up a student’s performance on an assignment or course. They are a time-stamped judgment of student performance. Unfortunately, they do not provide feedback that can enhance student learning. Similarly, when we provide words of affirmation or critique (‘good job’ or ‘missed the mark’), we might be helping a student feel good in the moment or spot a mistake, but we are not providing them with information they can learn from in future assignments.
The goals of giving feedback are to:
- Help students learn the content or skill at hand
Simply put, feedback helps correct misconceptions or affirm correct understandings.
- Drive metacognition
When students have an understanding of what they know and don't know, learning is more successful and students can better apply what they’ve learned in new situations.
- Promote a growth mindset
Helping students learn to tackle challenges with tenacity is one of Pear Deck’s tenets of great teaching. Teachers who Tackle Tenacity encourage their students to see learning as a journey. An incorrect answer or a challenging assignment isn't cause for alarm; it's an expected part of learning. Regular feedback helps students see feedback as a normal part of growing and learning, not as something to be feared.
Suggestions for giving constructive feedback:
- Have a clear objective
When giving feedback on student work, be clear in your own mind about the objective you are helping them meet. It helps if this objective was also made clear at the outset of the assignment.
- Be timely
Feedback that comes soon after the work was completed will have a bigger impact than feedback held until the end of the unit or semester.
- Be specific
Feedback, whether positive or negative, is most impactful when specific. Rather than saying ‘This is great.’ say, ‘This is great because you clearly understood the assignment and pushed past the basic requirements to create something original.’
- Focus on behaviors rather than inherent characteristics
Rather than say ‘You're good at math.’ try saying, ‘I see how hard you work in math.’ In this way, students learn to associate their success with certain behaviors rather than inherent capabilities that can't be changed.
- The Best Value in Formative Assessment (Stephen and Jan Chappuis, 2008)
- Bruyckere, P. (2018). The Ingredients for Great Teaching. Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington DC, Melbourne: Sage.
- Agarawl, P.K., Bain, P.M. (2019). Powerful Teaching: Unleash the Science of Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.