Research shows that giving your students feedback is one of the most powerful ways that you can boost how well they do at school. In fact, John Hattie’s early research suggested that giving regular feedback could see students improve by as much as 37 percentile points.
If you don’t give your students regular feedback – start doing so now.
However, some forms of feedback have far more impact than others. Sadly, when it is delivered poorly, feedback can even have a negative effect on students’ subsequent results.
Therefore, it is crucial that you know how to give feedback well. Avoiding these three common mistakes is a great place to begin.
Feedback Mistake 1: Commenting On The Student
Feedback should focus on what the students have done (or not done) rather than on the students themselves.
When you comment on the student, (e.g., you’re lazy, you’re smart, you’re obviously very creative) you are highlighting the link between innate traits that are part of who a student is. As these fixed traits are stable, you send a dangerous message – a message that success and failure come from who you are rather than from what you do. Students pick up on this message, and as a result:
- Students who did well learn not to take risks or push themselves, because, while it’s nice to be smart, future failure may show people they aren’t smart at all.
- Students who didn’t do well learn that there is no point in trying to do things differently as the problem lies with who they are, not in what they did.
Feedback Mistake 2: Not Offering Help
For feedback to have a positive impact on student results, you need to go beyond simply telling them how they went, and also help students find ways that they can improve.
If students walk away from feedback unsure what they need to do improve, then your feedback will fail to have the desired effect.
At a minimum, feedback should tell students the correct answer. More proficient students can use this to work out where they went wrong for themselves. However, in other cases, more help may be needed. This help could include simply telling them what to do, directing them to a worked example and giving them hints or prompts.
Feedback Mistake 3: Waiting Too Long
The most common times that teachers provide feedback to students are after they have marked a formal piece of assessment or as part of an official reporting process.
However, feedback works best when students have time to learn from it before they are formally assessed.
If you don’t give students feedback before you assess them, you deny them the opportunity to improve, and you fail to take advantage of the potential power that feedback can have.
You need to give feedback while students are practising and still in the process of mastering the material you have taught them.