The letter at the top of a graded assignment—whether it’s an A, C or F—doesn’t truly help a student understand what they were supposed to take away from the project. That’s why giving feedback to students is so critical: It takes the emphasis off whether they did the assignment “right” or “wrong” and helps them to understand what they learned (and still need to learn).
To ensure your classroom is getting the most from the feedback you offer, be sure what you share is:
- Goal-oriented: Link feedback directly to the assignment at hand and whenever possible reference the original instructions or rubric.
- Prioritized: Choose one or two areas the student should focus on versus a laundry list of fixes, which can be confusing.
- Actionable: Make sure your feedback is specific enough so that students can take the next steps. The statement “Add details” is vague, the statement, “Tie X idea to Y idea,” gives the student something actionable to focus on.
- Student-friendly: Make sure the feedback is encouraging and written to a level the student can understand.
- Ongoing, consistent and timely: Provide multiple opportunities to connect and offer feedback so students can continuously improve.
Try one of these methods for giving feedback to students to help them get the most out of your advice:
Method #1: Alternate class due dates
Instead of having all your students turn in their work at the same time—causing you to have to rush to grade them all—find ways to put classes on different timelines so their assignments don’t all come in at once. This will give you extra time to refine your feedback.
Method #2: Note notables
It’s easy to offer feedback that a student might forget minutes—or days—later. Writing it down on a sticky note and giving it to the student gives them something to reference as they make revisions or work on their next assignment. For distance learners, provide a notebook they can use specifically for feedback discussions, so they can write down items they need to focus on.
Method #3: Provide a model
It’s tough to do good work when you don’t know what good work looks like. By showing them examples of A-level work and C-level work, they’ll have examples in mind. You can even provide an easy reference point by giving each student a flash drive that contains A+ work, whether it’s a paper on book themes or a video on proper posture when holding an instrument.
Method #4: Pick a skill to focus on
Providing too many areas to improve on can overwhelm students. Choose one skill to focus on—whether it’s for a day, week or even just a single assignment—to help them master it. You can even call out the skills in a fun way. For example, give every student, both in-person and virtual, some colored pencils or highlighters as a school giveaway and have them use the red to cut out unneeded words and the blue to add supporting information to their arguments.
Get students to grow
Giving feedback to students lets you really put the focus on what you’re trying to accomplish: Learning! And with every tip, trick, nudge and school giveaway you offer, you’ll be helping them climb the next branch of the tree of knowledge.