You can only go in a positive direction when you communicate and provide feedback for students, right? Well, mostly! Are there best ways to provide feedback? Is feedback different when students are working in a brick and mortar school vs. virtual classroom and virtual assignments? What are the differences? How do you give feedback in a virtual environment?


According to Prensky (2007), young people persist at playing video games because of the stream of feedback they provide, within seconds. As they learn what works and what doesn’t at each level, based on the feedback, they can make changes in real time advancing to more challenging levels. Researchers have found that the same dynamic applies to education. One of the most powerful keys to unlocking student motivation and perseverance is feedback.


And, if not careful feedback can have some negative effects. Shute (2008) tells us formative feedback should be nonevaluative, supportive, timely. In addition, if students feel discouraged or demeaned the feedback can backfire. Balancing between facilitative feedback and directive feedback is also important. Does a student just need to be guided? Or, do they need direct feedback to scaffold their learning? Should it be immediate? Or delayed?


In the work of Marzano and Pickering, as well as in the work of Hattie we can see many of the “BEST” strategies and techniques. Yes, there are best ways to provided feedback. Even though many seem like common sense, in reality, the right blend and the right timing are key in providing good feedback in any environment.


Let’s start with some basic types of feedback. The top ways we think you can begin to point learners in the right direction:


  1. Focus feedback on the concept, task or skill that you are teaching, not on the learner.
  2. Use rubrics to guide students to self-assess as they work on assignments that focus on skills, tasks, and conceptual models.
  3. Provide specific, clear feedback that relates to the expectations in your rubric.
  4. Describe in simple and specific terms the who, what, where, and why as you give guidance and suggestions.
  5. Only provide as much feedback as is needed to help keep the learner on track. Don’t lard it with opinions.
  6. Provide unbiased, objective feedback with supporting evidence and resources for learners to continue to improve and expand their own learning.
  7. Promote learning goals versus perfect performance, supporting the larger goal of continuous learning.
  8. Give enough time for the learner to have some cognitive struggle as they come to solutions and conclusions.
  9. Provide consistency in meeting deadlines and providing feedback.


Where do these types of feedback fit in your classroom? Each of the above concepts is rooted in research and practice. Matching the right strategy for each learner, and each learning goal can be a balancing act. In the World of Learning, we start by making it very clear what the expectations are for meeting the learning goals each week. Teachers communicate on a regular basis to set deadlines and inform students when work will be graded.


A typical strategy, for us, would be to let learners know that on say, Sundays (or another day), all the work for a seminar that students complete will be graded with appropriate feedback. In a face-to-face setting, a teacher could provide similar guidelines. When assessing performance or having a discussion using good questions and allowing time for multiple opportunities and clear standards for engagement is also important (that’s another whole conversation).


By sending messages and announcements to learners at expected intervals learners are able to get into a rhythm that works for their specific need for feedback. If they are new to a concept they may need or want immediate feedback. For this learner, they might wait until late Sunday (or other designated day) to complete the assignments so that when a teacher grades and provides feedback on Sunday evening, the learner will get the corrects and feedback they need. It is also important to remember, even work that is excellent will need to receive feedback about the quality of the work and specific ways the learning goal was met.


In a virtual space where learners are working at their own time and pace, immediate feedback doesn’t always happen, so it is incredibly valuable for learners to know when the feedback will happen. And while we emphasize these routines in the online world, they are also critical in a typical brick and mortar classroom. Being consistent with feedback helps learners to know what to expect so they can ask for other supports as needed.


How do you provide feedback for your learners? Is the feedback you provide supporting learning?


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Marzano and Pickering

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