5 Research-Based Tips for Providing Students with Meaningful Feedback


In this Edutopia article about the importance of feedback there's an insightful comment left by Dylan Wiliam: <blockquote>Most of the research on feedback is a complete waste of time as far as school teachers are concerned. The studies that dominate the research literature are conducted by psychology professors on their own undergraduates in laboratory sessions that rarely last beyond three hours, in which students are given feedback, not told why they are being given feedback, don't get time to use the feedback, and are tested again. In their magisterial review of every single feedback study conducted between 1905 and 1995, Kluger and DeNisi (1996) pointed out that the only important thing about feedback is what it does to the recipient. Specific feedback can be helpful, but the danger is that it just tells the student what to fix without telling them why they need to fix it. It improves the work, but not the student's thinking. The article claims that the research shows that feedback should be given as quickly as possible, but Val Shute's review of the research literature, which appeared in the same journal as the Hattie and Timperley review, found that immediate feedback was better for lower-order thinking, but delayed feedback was more effective for higher-order thinking. Feedback that comes too quickly scaffolds the learning too tightly, so that, again, students do not have to think for themselves. Ultimately, the only thing that really matters in feedback is the relationship between the student and the teacher. Every teacher knows that the same feedback given to one student will make that student try harder, and to a similar student, can make the other student give up. When teachers know their students, they know when to push, and when to back off. And students have to trust their teachers. If students don't believe their teachers know what they are talking about, or don't believe they have their best interests at hear, they will not invest the time needed to take the feedback on board (rule one of feedback: feedback should be more work for the recipient than the donor). Ultimately, when your students trust you and you know your students, you can ignore all the rules of feedback. And without that relationship, all the research in the world won't matter...</blockquote>