How To Give Effective Feedback For Student Learning

Nov 20, 2023 | Assessment

How To Give Effective Feedback For Student Learning

Effective feedback is a cornerstone of successful learning experiences. Grant Wiggins, a prominent educational theorist perhaps best known for his Understanding By Design work with Jay McTighe, outlined key principles that define impactful feedback before his untimely passing in 2015. In this blog post, we will explore these principles and their significance in fostering continuous improvement and student success.

1. Goal-Referenced Feedback:

Effective feedback, according to Wiggins, begins with a clear goal. Whether telling a joke, writing a story, or participating in a science project, understanding the underlying objective is essential. In educational settings, where goals may not always be explicit, it becomes crucial for instructors to remind students of the specific objectives and criteria for self-assessment. Goal-referenced feedback serves as a roadmap for improvement, guiding students toward mastery.

2. Tangible and Transparent Feedback:

Wiggins emphasizes the importance of feedback being tangible and transparent. Feedback should provide clear, observable results related to the goal. Just as children learn to walk by receiving tangible feedback on their attempts, students benefit from concrete, goal-related information. Transparency in feedback ensures that performers can understand and learn from it. Teachers and coaches play a vital role in offering clear, nonjudgmental observations to enhance the learning experience.

3. Actionable Feedback:

For feedback to be effective, it must be concrete, specific, and actionable. Generic comments like “Good job!” or “You did that wrong” lack the specificity needed for improvement. Actionable feedback provides performers with clear guidance on what to do more or less of in the future. The feedback must also be accepted by the performer, emphasizing the importance of presenting neutral, goal-related facts rather than jumping to conclusions.

4. User-Friendly Feedback:

Even the most specific and accurate feedback is of limited value if it is not user-friendly. Wiggins highlighted the importance of ensuring that performers can understand and apply the feedback provided. Highly technical or overwhelming feedback can hinder rather than facilitate improvement. Feedback should focus on one or two key elements of performance, preventing information overload and helping performers concentrate on crucial aspects.

5. Timely Feedback:

Timeliness is a critical aspect of effective feedback. In most cases, the sooner feedback is delivered, the better. While immediate feedback may not always be feasible, timely feedback ensures that performers can use it while the details are still fresh in their minds. In education, the challenge lies in overcoming untimely feedback, and efforts should be made to provide more opportunities for students to receive and use timely feedback.

6. Ongoing Feedback:

Adjusting performance relies not just on receiving feedback but also on having ongoing opportunities to use it. Wiggins emphasized that formative assessment, which occurs throughout the learning process, allows performers to reshape their performance to better achieve the goal. Real-time feedback, as seen in successful computer games, creates a powerful feedback loop that promotes continuous improvement.

7. Consistent Feedback:

   For feedback to be useful, it must be consistent. Performers can only adjust successfully if the information fed back to them is stable, accurate, and trustworthy. In educational settings, this requires teachers to be aligned in their understanding of high-quality work. Collaboration among teachers, supported by descriptive rubrics and anchor products, ensures consistency. Similarly, students should be trained to provide consistent feedback to their peers using exemplars and rubrics.

Grant Wiggins’ insights into effective feedback provide a comprehensive framework for educators and learners alike. By incorporating these principles into educational practices, we can create an environment where feedback becomes a catalyst for continuous improvement, fostering a culture of excellence and achievement.



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