Providing effective feedback: lessons from research (II)

This post is the second part of an article that summarizes the main lessons of research on the power of feedback as an instructional strategy. You can read the first five lessons here.

LESSON SIX. Timing is important. The moment in the assessment period when feedback is provided can be of utmost importance. On the one hand, to feedback to summative assessment (say, a final exam paper) will be virtually useless for most students. Moreover, in many cases, students will deal better with feedback when the task is fresh in their minds. Teaching implications:

  • Don’t leave the tasks until the end of the semester. Setting them for earlier moments will facilitate asking for rewrites or improvements, reflections on the learning process – in other words, acting upon the feedback received.
  • In presentations, oral reports etc. try to provide oral/written feedback within the first 24 hours (Race, 2016).

LESSON SEVEN. Multi-modal feedback strategies work well. Learners are different, and so applying a variety of strategies will allow feedback to reach more learners more effectively. Teaching implication: Consider implementing a variety of feedback strategies and tools, such as:

  • Feedback to the whole class as well as individual feedback
  • Oral and written responses
  • Comments, but also checklists, rubrics…

LESSON EIGHT. Peer (student-student) feedback has its unique benefits. One of them is that peers may be better at explaining certain concepts or skills (largely, because they just mastered them!) Moreover, reviewers also learn, through (a)exposure to models; (b) having to understand the success criteria in order to provide feedback. Teaching implications: Consider in what specific moments and for what purposes can peer comments be effective.

You may be in doubt about your students’ ability to offer constructive criticism in a way that doesn’t affect classroom atmosphere negatively. Using the language of constructive c

LESSON NINE. Students need to be trained to use, and provide, feedback. Don’t take it for granted that students will spontaneously know how to apply your (or their peers’) advice in order to improve their task. Likewise, depending on their educational and even cultural background, they may not be equipped with the skills to provide effective feedback to their peers without possibly hurting their feelings. Teaching implications and tips:

  • Scaffold the peer review process. This may be done, for instance, by asking students to complete a rubric or checklist. To facilitate the task even more, you may ask reviewers to focus on one or two specific aspects of the assessment tool.
  • In on the spot feedback (presentations, oral reports), one practice that I have found useful is to ask peer reviewers to share examples of good practice, and leave the suggestions of improvement to the teacher. This has the value of enhancing the modeling effect of feedback on task achievement, and generally contributes to a positive classroom atmosphere.

LESSON TEN. Effective feedback practices must be sustainable in the long run. Feedback is resource intensive (time, effort) so its efficiency should be maximized. University programs are increasingly placing a premium on continuous assessment, leading to a higher number of assignments which in turn demand feedback. Therefore, if feedback strategies are not carefully planned and reviewed every year following a return-on-investment logic, instructors who were initially providing extensive feedback may, in the course of time, get to a point where they just don’t provide enough. Teaching implications and tips:

  • Considering what will be the target of your feedback after each student task: what is important and can be acted on by the student, what can be left out.
  • As we saw in the first part of this post, a larger assignment with several steps is generally more effective than several independent smaller ones. A useful suggestion is to provide the quality, abundant feedback in intermediate stages of the product, and simply grade the assignment at the end of it.
  • Make sure you are offering suggestions, and not spoon-feeding students with right answers.


Filed under Higher education

2 responses to “Providing effective feedback: lessons from research (II)

  1. Alfonso esto es un ejercicio de clase simplemente no dominamos bien ninguno todavía la privacidad. Pero creo que el post menciona de donde lo toma el alumno. En todo caso creo que ahora está en privado ya.


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