Formative feedback is defined as information communicated to the learner that is intended to modify his or her thinking or behavior to improve learning.
It should be non evaluative, supportive, timely, and specific. The main difference with coaching for example, is that feedback does not aim to improve skills, but focuses on behaviours.
Formative feedback is usually presented as information to a learner in response to some action on the learner’s part.
It comes in a variety of types (e.g., verification of response accuracy, explanation of the correct answer, hints, worked examples) and can be administered at various times during the learning process (e.g., immediately following an answer, after some time has elapsed).
Several variables have been shown to interact with formative feedback’s success at promoting learning (e.g., individual characteristics of the learner and aspects of the task).
Schute, V. J. (2008). Focus on Formative Feedback. Review of Educational Research, 78(1), 153-189. doi:10.3102/0034654307313795
The following examples demonstrate how feedback can be used in education:
- Comments on a student’s work (essay, participation in an activity or class)
- When a course has ended, student’s comments about that course which can contribute to more effective teaching in the future
- self directed: self-assessment by the student is likely to be of most value if the student can form an opinion with an authoritative reference-point or benchmark; also recording a student’s performance for self evaluation or feedback from others is also a powerful tool for self evaluation
- collective: it is the same feedback to a group of students at the same time (discussing good and bad examples of assignments or exams, providing checklists with general focus points and frequently made mistakes)
- peer: peer feedback can help students develop an appreciation of what counts as high-quality work in the discipline or subject area (Sadler, 1989). It is based on a prior set of evaluation criteria.
There are several purposes of feedback. Gibbs and Simpson enumerate the following:
- Correct errors
- Develop understanding through explanations
- Generate more learning by suggesting further specific study tasks
- Promote the development of generic skills by focusing on the evidence of the use of skills rather than on the content
- Promote meta-cognition by encouraging students’ reflection and awareness of learning processes involved in the assignment
- Encourage students to continue studying.
Feedback, when done effectively, helps improve and modify future actions. Therefore, feedback is not an isolated event but rather a continuous improvement cycle which can impulse student growth.
It may be difficult to assess feedback, but given its nature, one can follow some guidelines:
- Describe the facts with the aim to have an objective description of the behaviour (also with connections to the effect on the group/project and class)
- Only give feedback about behaviour that can be controlled
- Be specific, honest and polite
- Give feedback promptly, when possible, or when is requested
- Get feedback on your feedback.
One can evaluate the main points of feedback process, in terms of what worked and what can be improved:
- planning the feedback
- initiating the meeting
- discussing pertinent points
- listening to the recipient
- developing an action plan
- communication style and recipient reaction
- impact and timeliness of changes
Ku Leuven Education Feedback
Imperial College London Introduction to assessment and feedback
Ditch that textbook 10 tools for effective peer feedback in the classroom
Stanford VPTL Assess Your Teaching
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