Why Feedback Should Be Kind, Specific, And Helpful

Nov 12, 2023 | Assessment

Why Feedback Should Be Kind, Specific, And Helpful

We love Ron Berger’s insights and work with regard to improving student work and often use his Austin’s Butterfly video in our PBL workshops. One of his key principles revolves around the nature of feedback, emphasizing the significance of kindness, specificity, and helpfulness. Let’s delve into why Ron Berger advocates for feedback with these three crucial qualities and how it can transform the way we learn and grow.

Kindness as a Catalyst for Growth:

Kindness is not just a virtue; it’s a powerful force for growth. In the educational context, students are more likely to thrive in an environment where feedback is delivered with empathy and understanding. Berger contends that a kind approach to feedback establishes a supportive atmosphere, allowing students to feel valued and motivated to take risks in their learning journey.

Specificity: Precision in the Pursuit of Excellence:

Berger places a strong emphasis on specificity in feedback, recognizing its role in guiding learners toward excellence. Vague feedback lacks the necessary guidance for improvement. Ron Berger encourages educators and mentors to be specific in their feedback, highlighting not only what was done well but also providing detailed insights into areas that can be refined. Having a quality rubric and/or a high-quality example from which to draw specific language is an oft-overlooked piece of this process. This precision equips learners with a roadmap for progress, fostering a deeper understanding of their strengths and areas for development. 

Helpfulness as a Tool for Empowerment:

For Ron Berger, helpful feedback is not just about pointing out flaws; it’s about empowering learners to take control of their own growth. Constructive criticism, when coupled with actionable suggestions, becomes a powerful tool for transformation. By offering guidance on how to improve, Berger’s approach ensures that feedback is not a mere evaluation but a collaborative effort between educators and learners and even peer critique, propelling individuals toward meaningful development.

Building a Culture of Excellence:

Ultimately, Ron Berger’s advocacy for kind, specific, and helpful feedback extends beyond individual growth to the creation of a culture of excellence. When educators, mentors, and peers embrace these principles, they contribute to an environment where everyone is invested in each other’s success. This collective commitment to excellence transforms feedback from a mere assessment tool into a catalyst for positive change and communal advancement.

By incorporating kindness, specificity, and helpfulness into feedback, he encourages learners to view challenges as opportunities for learning and improvement. This mindset shift is instrumental in fostering resilience, adaptability, and a love for continuous learning—a crucial foundation for success in both academic and professional pursuits.



  1. George Morris

    The catch phrase says it all (“There’s no point in giving a grade unless you explain how to progress from that point”)!

    • Von

      Yep! So true….

  2. Yvonne Holland

    Wow! This is so true and reminded me of my freshman year in college. I had a professor on a Monday morning who indicated he had not had opportunity to grade all the papers that were submitted the previous week, but he openly made positive comments about the paper I submitted. Because I could not wait until Thursday (the next day we were in class), I ran across campus to pick up my paper and all he wrote on the front of it was “A+”. Believe it or not, I was so let down. My enthusiasm deflated so, so quickly. I gave him the paper back and said, “You didn’t say anything.” He took the paper back and wrote “Great job!” on it. Man, that frustrated me even more. I wanted to know what was so great? What had I done so well? I wanted to be sure to keep doing it, but I didn’t know what I had done. When I became a teacher, I remembered that encountered and promised myself I would always give students good feedback that is:
    1. timely
    2. specific
    3. reviewed with a critical eye
    Without these, it is difficult for a student to duplicate great work or to continue the thinking process that led to such high marks. Although it takes more time to grade, students deserve to know what’s great and what’s not about the work they have done.

    • Yvonne Davila

      Hi Von,

      I agree with your response about giving feedback with a grade. Personally, I learned that with experience, giving constructive feedback is easier with experience. It was tough for me to provide constructive feedback when I first became a nurse preceptor, but I knew that I had too. The new nurse needed to know what she/he did right and what she/he needed to improve. I could not just say “you did a good job” or “you did not do a good job.” Saying these two statements without constructive feedback causes a disservice to the patient, hospital, and community.

  3. Ananya Deb Roy

    This very basic point is so important for the teachers to consider in furthering the growth prospects of the students.

  4. navilan

    This is brilliant. I’ll add one more to this. Actionable.

    We have designed SocratiQ to provide precisely this type of layered feedback.


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