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How to Give Students Meaningful Feedback

How to Give Students Meaningful Feedback

Nina Smith

Being a teacher means that you are wearing many hats at the same time. One part of a teacher’s job is to help students build reliable self image. It is being like a mirror for students, so that they can reflect themselves and see a clear and correct picture. How would students otherwise know where they should improve their learning, or what is already going well?

Being a teacher means wearing many hats at the same time. One part of a teacher’s job is to help students build reliable self image. It is being like a mirror for students, so that they can reflect themselves and see a clear and correct picture. How would students otherwise know where they should improve their learning, or what is already going well? Feedback is a tool for reflection. Informal, timely and accurate feedback in your classroom makes learning much easier for your students. Giving effective feedback is not always easy. But it is a skill that can be learned (and taught).

The very first thing in feedback is to have a clear focus where to target it and also an understanding about the desired outcome. If the objective is to write a story with a good plot, there is not much sense in giving feedback about poor handwriting, or even the grammatical mistakes (while, of course, when practicing grammar, it would be insane to praise the good cursive skills, right?).

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Targeting the feedback to help students achieve the learning objective of the day is a god place to start. (Objective must be shared with students, of course, and preferably have it visible during the day, for example written on the board). Here is a bunch of thoughts about how to build an effective and emotionally safe feedback structure that guarantees better co-operation and thus deeper learning:

• Choose neutral words that are not loaded with value or judgment

• Only focus on the product !

• Use the objective as a framework in targeting the feedback.

• Focus first on something positive within the framework.

• Never criticize personal shortcomings that cannot be controlled.

• Give a suggestion for improvement and ask if the student agrees with you.

• Check understanding by asking your student to explain his/her plan for improvement.

The last point is very important, because it clearly places the responsibility for improvement to students. Unfortunately our student assessment systems too often focus on skills instead of the process of learning. That is why it is so essential to have strong informal feedback system in classroom to support the meaningfulness of learning and teaching.

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