Use Wise feedback to foster learning

Inclusive Teaching Tip | Fall 2020

Consider a moment when you’ve received feedback recently.  Perhaps, it came through a peer review or student evaluation. When were you able to “hear” the comments, and when did you react defensively and shut down? When did feedback motivate you to improve? How might you provide feedback that motivates students to learn?

Feedback is a form of formative assessment that reinforces students’ understanding of excellent work and helps close the gap between where they are and where you want them to be. Yet, as Hattie and Timperley (2007) have shown, not all feedback is equal. General statements such as  “This is a good essay. I really liked the introduction,” or “Don’t jump to conclusions,” evaluate rather than educate. Such statements communicate an assessment of quality but they don’t provide information about what was done well or how to improve. Similarly, editing student work or providing the correct answer isn’t useful feedback because it short circuits the learning process. The student didn’t do the work –  you did.

Wise feedback conveys high expectations and confidence that the learner can meet those expectations. Wise feedback fosters learning because it alerts the students in time for them to modify their behaviors or actions. Effective feedback provides learners with information they can action by illustrating how they’ve succeeded and where they need to focus their energies to increase the quality or depth of their learning. Providing feedback that is both wise and effective can be a challenge. The three Ps provide a strategy you can employ to consistently provide high-quality feedback

  • Process: How did the student complete the task? How effective was their approach?
  • Product: How well does the product demonstrate what the student has learned? 
  • Progress: What skills and knowledge has the student gained? What can they do to continue progressing towards the learning goal?

Different learners will require more or less directedness in the feedback for them to find it helpful. To learn what students most need, provide each learner with one or two comments on one of the 3Ps. Observe who uses the feedback and what specific feedback leads to changes. With practice, you can begin to differentiate for diverse learners by varying the amount, type, and specificity of the feedback as you learn what individuals need.

Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81–112.

Bonus Tip8 Ways to Be More Inclusive in Your Zoom Teaching
This recent Chronicle piece by Kelly A. Hogan and Viji Sathy offers practical strategies for making your zoom sessions more inclusive of diverse learners.

The Inclusive Teaching Tips are a series of simple, equitable teaching practices published in the Learning and Teaching Commons Newsletter. The tips are archived here.

For many, many more inclusive teaching resources and to add your own, visit ALL LEARNERS WELCOME: Resources for Designing Inclusive Learning Experiences.

This inclusive teaching tip was adapted from Zehnder, C., Alby, C., Kleine, K., & Metzker, J. (2021). Learning That Matters: A Field Guide to Course Design for Transformative Education. Gorham, ME: Myers Education Press.

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