In the previous episode, we discussed the strategies to ensure goal-oriented practice. However, we know that a combination of goal-oriented practice and targeted feedback is essential for learning. So today, we will talk about the strategies for ensuring targeted feedback.
Look for error patterns
In a classroom, students can often share errors or misconceptions that are only revealed when we make a concerted effort to look for patterns. For example, many students can make the same error in an examination or homework; many can make the same mistake. During class hours, multiple students may ask the same doubt around parts that they feel are either complex or unclear. In all these cases, we can identify similar patterns of error. Once we understand these patterns, we can give feedback to the class as a whole.
What information should feedback include? The answer to this question depends on many factors, including the learning objectives, the knowledge level of students, what students need to improve and the time available. So, the key to efficient feedback is giving the information that will be most useful to students at a particular point in time.
Balance strengths and weaknesses of students
Communicating the areas where students are improving and doing well is just as important as speaking to them about the areas where they need improvement. Most of the students may not be aware of the progress they are making. Sharing their strengths will help them understand the aspects of the knowledge and performance that should be maintained and built upon, whereas feedback around their weaknesses will help them understand the areas that need improvement. Beginning with positive feedback also enhance students’ confidence.
Give feedback at frequent intervals
In the previous episode, we said students should have multiple opportunities to practise. Giving feedback at frequent intervals provide students with more opportunities to incorporate the suggestions needed to refine their knowledge and skill set. Instead of providing long assignments or tasks, assignments of shorter lengths will give teachers opportunities to give frequent feedback.
Provide feedback at both individual and group levels
Feedback does not need to be given individually every time to become valuable. As we discussed in our first strategy, it is better to provide feedback to the group as a whole to correct a common misconception or mistake. We can point out their errors and have a group discussion to help them understand the mistake. At the same time, individual feedback should be given if needed.
Incorporate feedback from students
Incorporating peer feedback is also an important strategy to ensure targeted feedback. With explicit guidelines in place, students can provide constructive feedback on each other’s work. This will help them become better at identifying the qualities of good work and understanding their problems. Another advantage of peer feedback is that teachers can increase the feedback frequency without increasing the workload. However, before implementing this system, students should be given adequate practice in peer-to-peer feedback.
Ask students to specify how they use feedback
Feedback is most valuable when students incorporate it into their practice and improve their performance. Asking students how a piece of feedback impacted their practice and performance will help them understand feedback’s value. It also allows teachers to design their feedback more effectively.
Let us quickly recap the main points now:
1. We should identify the patterns of errors to identify students’ misconceptions and common mistakes.
2. Prioritise the feedback so that it will be most helpful to students at a particular point in time.
3. Include the strengths and weaknesses of students in the feedback.
4. Provide feedback at frequent intervals.
5. Provide both individual and group-level feedback.
6. Incorporate peer feedback.
7. Ask students to specify how they use feedback.
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