Principles of feedback and Types of feedback

Principles of feedback & Types of feedback

Feedback and learning

Feedback is an essential part of effective learning. Feedback can improve a student's confidence, self-awareness and enthusiasm for learning. Whether it be informal and formative, such as encouragement during a class or improving the mastery of a skill; or formal and summative feedback, such as determining a competency or successful demonstration of an approach to theory application. Feedback lets students know how they are doing and should provide opportunities to adjust and perfect their efforts.
To benefit student learning, feedback needs to be:
  • Constructive – As well as highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of a piece of work, it should set out ways in which the student can improve.
  • Timely – Give feedback while the work is still fresh in a student’s mind, and before they move onto subsequent tasks
  • Meaningful – It needs to target individual needs and be linked to specific intended learning outcomes

Feedback and assessment

Assessment feedback is critical for effectively promoting student learning. Feedback is the linch-pin to students’ effective decision making, and the basis of improved learning outcomes. However, according to Henderson et al (2017) feedback is under-utilised and often misunderstood by both students and educators. As such, a group of academics undertook a project aiming to enhance student learning and experience by improving institutional, educator, and student capacity to stimulate and leverage assessment feedback.
The project group consisted of a collaboration between Monash University, Deakin University and the University of Melbourne, led by Associate Professor Michael Henderson and Professor David Boud, and was sponsored by the Australian Office for Learning and Teaching funding grant. Access their work on the Feedback for Learning: Closing the assessment loop website.
The framework includes three categories for enacting the conditions of success. Feedback is successful when…
Capacity for feedback
(1) Learners and educators understand and value feedback
(2) Learners are active in the feedback process
(3) Educators seek and use evidence to plan and judge effectiveness
(4) Learners and educators have access to appropriate space and technology
Designs for feedback
(5) Information provided is usable and learners know how to use it
(6) It is tailored to meet the different needs of learners
(7) A variety of sources and modes are used as appropriate
(8) Learning outcomes of multiple tasks are aligned
Culture for feedback
(9) It is a valued and visible enterprise at all levels
(10) there are processes in place to ensure consistency and quality
(11) Leaders and educators ensure continuity of vision and commitment
(12) Educators have flexibility to deploy resources to best effect

Feedback for teaching

Feedback in education often focuses solely on student learning. However feedback for teaching is just as valuable.
Consider the following:
  • Peer observation – Involves teachers observing each other’s practice and learning from one another. Peer observation aims to support the sharing of practice and builds self-awareness about the impact of one’s teaching practice in order to affect change. This can be both an informal or formal process.
  • Peer review – Is a structured process that support the provision of feedback and evidence on teaching practice. Usually a more formal process.

Principles of feedback

Feedback is data you offer your learners to help them close the gulf between where they are with their job now and where they might be. Feedback is aimed at providing understanding to learners that helps them enhance their efficiency. The seven principles of efficient feedback, according to Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick (2006), are:

  1. Helping to clarify what good performance is. Students require goals, criteria, expected standards for which they can assess their progression. Examples include the provision of clear, concise written instructions, instructional videos, and exemplars.
  2. Facilitating the development of self-assessment (reflection) in learning. Students require opportunities to practice aspects of their own learn and reflect on that practice. Examples include peer feedback and self-feedback processes.
  3. Delivering high quality information to students about their learning. Feedback from teachers is a source against which students can evaluate their progress and check out their own internal constructions of goals, criteria and standards. Feedback needs to be timely, prioritise avenues for improvement and accessible.
  4. Encouraging teacher and peer dialogue around learning. Feedback as dialogue means that students not only receive initial feedback information, but also have the opportunity to engage the teacher in discussion about that feedback. Examples include collated feedback provided for small group discussion, and virtual office meetings.
  5. Encouraging positive motivational beliefs and self-esteem. The focus of feedback is on learning goals (mastering the subject) rather than on performance goals (passing the test, looking good). Feedback given as grades has also been shown to have especially negative effects on the self-esteem of low-ability students (Craven et al., 1991). Examples include providing marks after students have responded to feedback comments, and including processes of draft and resubmissions.
  6. Providing opportunities to close the gap between current and desired performance. Is the feedback of the best quality, and does it lead to changes in student behaviour? Feedback should help students to recognise the next steps in learning and how to take them, both during production and in relation to the next assignment. Examples include providing feedback on work-in-progress, and use two-stage assignments where feedback on stage one helps improve stage two.
  7. Providing information to teachers that can be used to help shape teaching. In order to produce feedback that meets students’ needs, teachers themselves need good data about how students are progressing (Nicol & Macfarlane-Dick, 2006). They also need to be involved in reviewing and reflecting on this data, and in taking action to help support the development of self-regulation in their students. Examples include, one-minute papers, diagnostic tests and ‘key questions’ for discussion as developed by the students

Types of feedback

Feedback can serve a number of purposes and take a number of forms. Feedback can be provided as a single entity – ie: informal feedback on a student’s grasp of a concept in class – or a combination of multiple entities – ie: formal, formative, peer feedback on stage one of an assessment task. Each has its place in enhancing and maximising student learning, thus where possible, courses should provide opportunities for a range of feedback types.

Informal feedback

Informal feedback can occur at any times as it is something that emerges spontaneously in the moment or during action. Therefore informal feedback requires the building of rapport with students to effectively encourage, coach or guide them in daily management and decision-making for learning. This might occur in the classroom, over the phone, in an online forum or virtual classroom.

Formal feedback

Formal feedback is planned and systematically scheduled into the process. Usually associated with assessment tasks, formal feedback includes the likes of marking criteria, competencies or achievement of standards, and is recorded for both the student and organisation as evidence.

Formative feedback

The goal of formative assessment is to monitor student learning to provide ongoing feedback that can be used by instructors to improve their teaching and by students to improve their learning. Therefore formative feedback is best given early in the course, and prior to summative assessments. Formative feedback helps students to improve and prevent them from making the same mistakes again. In some cases, feedback is required before students can progress, or feel capable of progressing, to the next stage of the assessment.

Summative feedback

The goal of summative assessment is to evaluate student learning at the end of an instructional unit by comparing it against some standard or benchmark. Therefore summative feedback consists of detailed comments that are related to specific aspects of their work, clearly explains how the mark was derived from the criteria provided and additional constructive comments on how the work could be improved.

Student peer feedback

There is no longer need for teachers to be the only experts within a course. With basic instruction and ongoing support, students can learn to give quality feedback, which is highly valued by peers. Providing students with regular opportunities to give and receive peer feedback enriches their learning experiences and develops their professional skill set.

Student self feedback

This is the ultimate goal of feedback for learning. During the provision of feedback, teachers have the opportunity not only to provide direction for the students, but to teach them, through explicit modelling and instruction, the skills of self-assessment and goal setting, leading them to become more independent (Sackstein, 2017). To help students reach autonomy teachers can explicitly identify, share, and clarify learning goals and success criteria; model the application of criteria using samples; provide guided opportunities for self-feedback; teach students how to use feedback to determine next steps and set goals; and allow time for self-feedback/reflection.

Constructive feedback

This type of feedback is specific, issue-focused and based on observations. There are four types of constructive feedback:
  • Negative feedback – corrective comments about past behaviour. Focuses on behaviour that wasn’t successful and shouldn’t be repeated.
  • Positive feedback – affirming comments about past behaviour. Focuses on behaviour that was successful and should be continued.
  • Negative feed-forward – corrective comments about future performance. Focuses on behaviour that should be avoided in the future.
  • Positive feed-forward – affirming comments about future behaviour. Focused on behaviour that will improve performance in the future.

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