The teacher's guide to optimizing student feedback

Giving feedback is a huge part of teaching. Whether you’re teaching 8 year olds or university students, math or english, you give feedback on your students’ work almost constantly. The questions may be multiple choice, fill in the blank, short answer, or long essay format. You may be assessing students on their writing ability, cultural literacy, math, chemistry, foreign language, or some combination of the above. The feedback may be a part of a grade, or it may come at an earlier point in the process. Regardless of what you’re offering feedback on, the goals of feedback are for the student to learn more, more efficiently, more effectively, and to better understand the material at hand.
Many times, when feedback is offered on student work, it goes in one ear and out the other (or eye, perhaps). A corrected answer, a problem written out by the teacher, or an indication of what to do next time may put the right answer in front of the student, but it doesn’t necessarily help them to be able to do it or something similar to it correctly the next time around. It may be difficult for the student to take that feedback and apply it to a similar, but slightly different academic situation. Feedback should encourage students to be active in taking the feedback and making their work better, not just consuming teacher comments or correct answers.
Approaching feedback from the idea that you want students to actively use what you give them to change their processes also helps engage them in a number of other useful skills that you’re likely already trying to include in your classroom experiences, such as:

  • Creating instead of just consuming
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem solving
  • Oral and written communication skills
  • Collaboration with peers
  • Adaptability
  • Deductive reasoning
  • Seeing opportunity rather than negativity (in feedback)
  • Innovation

That said, feedback does take quite a bit of time. So how do you optimize student feedback to ensure that it packs a big learning punch without giving yourself what could turn out to be another 80 hour a week job? With a few transformations of your current feedback processes, you’ll be on the right track, working smarter – not harder- when you give your students feedback. Try these tips for optimizing student feedback in your classroom and let us know how it goes! Drop us a line in the comments below, mention @DailyGenius on Twitter or head over to the Daily Genius Facebook page and leave us a message there.

Optimizing student feedback

Some simple transformations can engage students in improving their work, and require minimal effort from teachers.
Transformation 1: Rather than writing a number of comments on the student’s work, the teacher writes one overall comment identifying general areas of improvement. The student then reads those comments and must go back through their work to identify specific areas that need improvement.
Transformation 2: The teacher writes multiple notes in the student’s work, but does not offer an overall comment or specific items to be changed or improved. The student then summarizes the teacher’s commentaries and uses that to identify specific areas of improvement.
Transformation 3: Identify the ‘great’ parts of a student’s work without identifying specific reasons why it was great, elements it included, etc. The student then must identify the ‘why’ in each instance.
Transformation 4: Rather than giving a correct answer or solution to a student’s incorrect response, identify that the response is incorrect, and have the student correct it. Give hints if necessary.
Transformation 5: Create a group or pair peer assessment activity. The teacher will give some general comments about the work, and the peers should identify some specific areas where that feedback would apply, and the students all work together to improve upon the work.
optimizing student feedback

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