Three Keys To Giving Great Student Feedback

Giving Student Feedback

Whether you are a K-12 teacher, special education teacher, or ESL/TEFL teacher, providing great feedback to students and parents is tricky, and necessary. A few weeks ago I wrote about the game changers of feedback in 21st century education like John Hattie and Grant Wiggins. Their methods have been proven and adopted widely by North American educators.

Even with their guidance, giving feedback to students and parents is dreaded by most educators due to its delicate nature. As humans, critical feedback about our performance or about our child’s performance is hard to hear. At FeedbackPanda our 30,000 educators have written over 16 million student reports and shared over 6.8 million feedback templates helping teachers save up to 10 hours a week. We have discovered three keys to help teachers provide great feedback to students and parents.

  1. Clear is kind.
  2. Think growth mindset.
  3. The sooner the better.

Here is a great example of VIPKid feedback template by Teacher C that has been shared over 1430 times on the FeedbackPanda application.

best esl feedback app for vipkid

This was the last lesson before the final assessment for Unit Nine. [name] was focused and did a great job discussing Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King Jr. She identified the traits that they shared, and she was able to discuss their similarities and differences. 

[name] was able to match the unit vocabulary words with their definitions as well as use them correctly in sentences. She was able to discuss why people followed Harriet Tubman and Dr. King as well as whether these two individuals were considered heroes.

[name] was able to read words with the silent [g] such as [gnat], [graw], and [sign]. She was also able to read words with the silent [w] such as [wreath], [wrist], and [wrinkle]. She was able to change sentences from active voice to passive voice, but had some difficulty understanding when to use the past participle or regular past tense in sentences. This is something [name] can review and practice at home.

At the end of class, I reviewed the three options for the final project. It is due at the beginning of the next lesson. Please make sure she completes it as homework.

Here are the three options:

Option 1 – A Comic Strip: Draw different things that one of the heroes did in this unit. Write at least two sentences to describe each heroic action.

Option 2 – A Hero’s Story: Write a story about a hero in this unit. Draw a picture of him/her at the top of the paper. Write at least three sentences.

Option 3 – A Real Hero: Cut out pictures of your favorite real hero. Create your own short story about her or her. Write at least three sentences.

[name] should review the unit vocabulary words, active and passive voice, words with silent letters, and facts about Harriet Tubman and Dr. King to help her prepare for her final assessment.

[name] worked hard today and earned all five stars! Thank you for booking a class with me! – Teacher C 

Clear is Kind. Unclear is Unkind.

Brene Brown, a renowned research professor at the University of Houston, wrote,

Of the ten behaviors and cultural issues that leaders identified as barriers to courage, there was one issue that leaders ranked as the greatest concern: Avoiding tough conversations, including giving honest, productive feedback.

Some leaders attributed this to a lack of courage, others to a lack of skills, and, shockingly, more than half talked about a cultural norm of “nice and polite” that’s leveraged as an excuse to avoid tough conversations.

Over the past several years, my team and I have learned something about clarity and the importance of hard conversations that has changed everything from the way we talk to each other to the way we negotiate with external partners. It’s simple but transformative: Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.”

As educators we fall naturally into the “nice and polite” category but are still expected to have tough conversations. The structure of our message is important to ensure we are clear without making our students feel devalued or our parents feel defensive.

Teacher C provides clear information to the parents. It is clear what was done in the lesson, what the student was able to do, and unable to do. She also gave direction on how to improve and what was expected and coming next. She commented not only on the student’s strengths but also provides areas of weakness that need review, all done in a personal and friendly tone.

Some teachers may think, wow, I don’t have time to provide detailed feedback like that. Spending a little extra time creating one well thought out and detailed feedback template can save tremendous time in the future. Or even better, teachers can use apps like FeedbackPanda to find the best templates and adapt them for their own use.

Think Growth Mindset

The past decade has seen incredible growth in brain research and an understanding of how we learn. One of the outcomes of this research is the idea of a growth mindset. Growth mindset is the belief system that suggests that one’s intelligence can be grown or developed with persistence, effort, and a focus on learning. This is in contrast to the fixed mindset, a belief system that suggests a person has a set amount of intelligence, skill, or talent.

The growth mindset is especially important when it comes to providing praise in your feedback. “Students who are praised for their intelligence, learn to value performance while students who are praised for their effort and hard work value opportunities to learn” (Sousa, 2009).

For example, a feedback that fosters a fixed mindset will only praise the outcome or product instead of the effort it took to get there: “You are so smart, you made that look easy.” Feedback that fosters a growth mindset will praise the process and the effort: “You are working hard to understand this. Great job.”

Teacher C praises the student at the beginning, attributing success to the student’s focus. Again at the end, Teacher C comments on the students effort, not the outcomes, as being the cause of the five star rating.

As a teacher, moving toward a growth mindset takes some practice. Using the Smart Sentence feature in applications like FeedbackPanda allows teachers to create and build their own library of growth mindset comments, so they don’t need to reinvent the feedback for every student.

The Sooner the Better

Giving Student Feedback Tips

Time is always the nemesis of teaching. Planning, teaching, evaluating, reporting. The cycle is never ending and the expectations are high, so meeting a standard of “timely feedback” can be daunting. To make it a priority, teachers must first understand why it is a priority.

Numerous studies indicate that feedback is most effective when it is given immediately, rather than a few days, weeks, or months after the lesson. In one study that looked at delayed versus immediate feedback, the researchers found that participants who were given immediate feedback showed a significantly larger increase in performance than those who received delayed feedback. Another research project, from the University of Minnesota, showed that students who received lots of immediate feedback were better able to comprehend the material they had just read.

In the sample by Teacher C, parents can recognize the immediacy of the feedback. Providing specific ways to improve and cuing students about upcoming assessment or deadlines can only be done if the feedback is timely. The feedback becomes an extension of the learning process.

It is impossible for a high school teacher to provide daily written feedback to 100 students or for a primary teacher to provide parents with meaningful daily feedback on the progress of their child. Even TEFL teachers working for organizations like VIPKid and GoGoKid are squeezed for time to provide the required daily feedback. We have found a few strategies that can help.

  1. Schedule your feedback writing time into your calendar. To ensure every student has specific timely feedback, even on a rotating basis, it is important that you set aside time to write the assessments each day.
  2. Use a general format that works for you that follows best practice. Consistency will make you fast and more efficient in your work.
  3. Use a template that can be saved and then reused. It is simple to adapt and personalize templates for each student and even adapt templates for different lessons. If you use rubrics, set up standard templates for each level.
  4. Use the teacher reporting/feedback sharing platform used in your school if you have one. Sharing templates between teachers saves time and creates a professional learning community, a vital component of teacher development. If your school or organization does not provide this option through their SIS or LMS, give FeedbackPanda a try for free.

Providing clear, timely feedback using a growth mindset will support student learning. It should be part of your daily routine with the same priority as lesson planning and instructional time. I know you can’t work harder, so let’s work smarter! FeedbackPanda was built for teachers and to support the strategies above.