Feedback is information provided (by the teacher, a peer, a book or computer programme, or an experience) about aspects of a student’s performance or the knowledge they have built up from a learning experience. Learners can use feedback to confirm, fine tune or restructure existing knowledge, beliefs and strategies.
Well-timed feedback can support cognitive processes for better performance, including confirming or restructuring understanding, improving strategies, guiding students to more information, and suggesting directions and/or alternative strategies they could pursue in order to improve. Feedback can also engage students in metacognitive strategies such as goal setting, task planning, monitoring, and reflection, which are important skills for self-regulated learning. Feedback can influence students’ affective processes, improving effort, motivation and engagement
There is a strong and well-established research base on the importance of feedback to student learning. It is important to note that the research demonstrates that it is not the quantity of feedback that makes a difference but the quality of the feedback, and the ways in which students are supported to engage with, respond to and utilise the feedback to improve.
Feedback should be user-friendly (specific and personalised), transparent, addressable, timely, ongoing, and content-rich. It also needs to be clear, purposeful, and compatible with students’ existing knowledge, while providing little threat to self-esteem.
Feedback should not only focus on the specific learning intention or task but also provide next steps for students, letting them know where they are going in their learning.
Task-level feedback describes students’ performance on a specific task and may offer students directions on how to acquire more, different or correct information. It is best given immediately. Process level feedback focuses on how the student has completed a task or created a product. It is particularly powerful for improving students’ deep processing and mastery of tasks and directing students towards more effective task strategies. Personal level is directed to the self and contains little task-related information. This is the least effective level of feedback as it rarely leads to more engagement, enhanced self-efficacy or better understanding of the task.
A brief introduction to the importance of feedback to your teaching practice
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