Dr. Allison C. White, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science in the College of Libral Arts lectures during class,Instructors often conflate evaluation, praise, and feedback. They are, however, distinctly different and serve different purposes. Contemporary research indicates that praise may hinder student progress or decrease motivation. That is not to say we should not praise students; it’s just a cautionary point to highlight the importance of feedback. Feedback is direct information provided to students that lets them know how their current performance measures up in relation to a standard. It is important to remind students that formative assessment is a form of feedback so they understand the role of formative assessment in your classroom. To keep students from stressing over the word “assessment” in formative assessment, you can choose to change the term to “check for understanding” and maintain formative assessments as a regular, low-stakes or no-stakes practice in your teaching. Don’t presume that telling students “good job” will motivate them as feedback should offer specific guidance on steps that can be taken to improve:

  • Telling students “this needs work” does not provide guidance on errors or necessary corrections. Be specific.
  • Feedback should be timely. Although this can be difficult, evidence shows that long time lags between student performance and getting feedback limits the utility of the feedback.
  • It takes practice to give valuable feedback; if you want students to give feedback to each other, they will need guidelines, practice, and support. When students learn to give feedback, not only does it lighten an instructor’s work load, the process benefits both the student-receiver and student-giver of feedback.
  • Time is always the limiting factor; think about how to be strategic in your use of feedback. Consider selecting a manageable sample of student work for individual feedback if that fits your class size and availability. Alternately, TAs may be effective in this role.
  • Consider using resources for giving feedback on student writing and making that feedback meaningful and time-efficient for you as the instructor.
  • Provide learners with multiple opportunities to track their learning progress with timely feedback. For larger assignments, such as papers, presentations and projects, require students to submit drafts so that you can offer feedback, or they can offer feedback to each other.
  • Peer reviews and examples of good and poor assignments give students a chance to see how the work they are doing compares to others and to your expectations. Provide rubrics and guidelines for peer review.
  • Guide students to use rubrics and/or checklists to do self-assessment and goal-setting.
  • Ensure the feedback that you provide is substantive so that students can clearly understand your expectations and use your comments to improve their work.
  • Give students opportunities to use feedback to improve work and receive credit for the improvements.