29 October 2014

Feedback in the classroom: How to make it valuable for your students

It's important that educators around the world know how to give valuable feedback in the classroom. I believe it should be taught explicitly when training teachers so that they can consistently be giving valuable feedback in the classroom.

Studies have shown that giving valuable feedback in class can 

"enhance learning when there is a discrepancy between what is understood and what is aimed to be understood. It can increase effort, motivation, or engagement to reduce this discrepancy, and/or it can increase cue searching and task processes that lead to understanding (thus reducing this discrepancy)." (Hattie & Timperley, 2007)

There are three main questions asked by a teacher and/or student which must be answered to generate valuable feedback: Where am I going? How am I going? and Where to next? Being an effective teacher generally means you impart information and understanding to students which then involves you assessing and evaluating students' understanding. 

Where am I going?

In answering this question, the teacher/student needs to understand what the goals are. Having a clear indication of what the end goal is and how to measure the success of reaching that goal is fundamental when delivering valuable feedback. 

How am I going?

This question is relative to a task or performance goal and is usually influenced by an expected standard, past performance and linked to success or failure of a specific task. It fundamentally relates to what progress is being made toward the goal. 

Where to next?

Teacher's give instruction on a sequential basis. It follows a trend towards achieving a specific goal or task. In giving valuable feedback, teachers can provide information which leads to greater possibilities of learning through knowing what activities need to be undertaken to make better progress.

"These may include enhanced challenges, more self-regulation over the learning process, greater fluency and automaticity, more strategies and processes to work on the tasks, deeper under- standing, and more information about what is and what is not understood. This feed- forward question can have some of the most powerful impacts on learning." (Hattie & Timperley, 2007)

21st Century Teaching

If the feedback isn't being delivered properly, students never learn how to learn. Teachers are working harder to deliver the same content over longer periods of time while failing to achieve desired learning goals. As an educator teaching in the 21st century, we need to be smart about the way we approach learning. Giving feedback is intrinsically tethered to our profession, therefore, the ability to give valuable and meaningful feedback should be a main priority in training educators in the 21st century. 

For a more in-depth view read The Power of Feedback