Effective feedback is the pivotal factor in the learning journey. Regardless of your stage as a learner, well timed, considered and precise feedback will help you improve.

Over time, we have seen a number of fads come and go in the classroom. How people package feedback is down to personal preference and teaching style , and most importantly dependent on the learners they have in front of them. Regardless of the packaging or guise, teachers should consider a number of factors when planning their feedback.

Timing

When feedback is given is key. The sooner the better in my eyes. Giving live feedback whilst learners are completing tasks allows you to help them overcome misconceptions in context and then avoid making these misconceptions again. What frustrates me with “traditional” marking is that it is done cold (so to speak) and by the time the feedback is acted upon, the piece of work is completed. This means that misconceptions that could have been avoided may have been missed.

There is a place for post task feedback, and it is important to consider a well rounded approach. Summative feedback can be a helpful tool in identifying group trends and potential areas of concern. The feedback given in these situations needs to remain relevant to the next phase or unit of learning… or it becomes less effective.

Format

The best way to give feedback to students is still a contentious issue. Written feedback that is reviewed after the task, for me, has limitations. The written nature does however highlight to the students when they revisit learning what they may have had misconceptions in before. The individualised nature means that students are able to move forward with this tailored feedback.

Whole class feedback is a strong alternative to commenting in every individual book. The concept is simple, identify trends in the class and feedback to them all to help them avoid or overcome misconceptions. It is a less frustrating alternative to writing the same comments in numerous books.

Verbal feedback (let’s not get into stampers!!) also has an important place in the learning process. Informal correction or consideration verbally gives teachers another opportunity to help learners overcome issues. In addition, the fluidity makes this type of feedback speedy and efficient.

In truth, I think that a hybrid approach that incorporates all three approaches is the best way to go. The reality is that we give feedback a lot when teaching and limiting it to just one time or one part in a lesson can be a hindering factor.

Effectiveness and efficiency

Marking books for grammar for students to never look at it again is a waste of your time and a waste of your sanity. Marking for marking sake is still present in some school policies and although there have been a lot of changes in recent years, there still remains some level of traditionalism around the idea that “deep marking” has a place in the classroom.

The reality is that any kind of feedback needs to help students progress. Simply identifying errors does not help learners get better at tasks. It is how the error or misconception is addressed that is important and circling said error will not do this.

Giving feedback needs to be efficient, not only so you can reduce your workload outside the classroom, but also so you can be more effective in the classroom. The concept of workload reduction doesn’t mean working less, it means being able to do your job better with less stress. Gained time means that you can focus more on the quality of teaching and learning that is happening in your classes.

Habits

One of the keys to effective feedback is getting the student into good habits when it comes to feedback, be that written, verbal, individual or whole class. By building in clear routines you are able to speed up the processes and ensure that misconceptions are overcome.

Buildings commonality of language, being explicit with expectations and having consistently high standards around feedback builds a culture of growth in the classroom. Many learners have been conditioned to see feedback as something that is tagged on to a task, and by changing the mindsets on this, you can instil some exceptional study ethic in your classrooms very quickly.