Providing Students Meaningful Feedback

Instructional feedback for students is essential to their growth, and instructional feedback has been extensively researched over the past several decades.  On giant in that research field is Grant Wiggins.  In his article Seven Keys to Effective Feedback (, Wiggins shares that instructional feedback should be:

  1. Goal-referenced – Tasks must be clearly defined and goals clearly articulated.  As such, feedback should be directly linked to the goal.  Don’t be shy about it.  When providing feedback, restate the goal of the assignment or task and share how the student met the goal or what the student could do differently to meet the goal. 
  2. Tangible and transparent – Feedback has to be authentic and real for students to benefit from it.  It must be easily understood by the receiver. 
  3. Actionable – Feedback must provide something for students to act upon in order to improve.  Simply saying “good job” or “that is wrong” is not enough.  Students need to know more specifically what made the work good, so that they can continue to respond in that manner.  Students need to know more specifically what was incorrect, so that they can correct the error in future efforts. 
  4. User-friendly – Feedback must be provided in a way that the student will understand.  For example, many years ago I was rehearsing an elementary school choir.  I asked them to sing louder.  They did, but they also started singing faster.  I stopped the group and blurted out, “A change in dynamic does not require a change in tempo.”  They stared at me blankly.  I realized they were not as well versed in music vocabulary, and I had to change my words in order for them to fully understand.  I re-stated it, they understood it, and the performance was better. 
  5. Timely – Feedback is most powerful when it is employed near the event.  Returning to my prior example, I could have discussed dynamic and tempo with the students at the next rehearsal, but they wouldn’t have made the connection.  I had to stop the piece when things were going awry in order to provide corrections.  Once the feedback had been given, the piece was started again. 
  6. On-going – Feedback is not a one-and-done matter.  It occurs over and over in order to yield the greatest results. 
  7. Consistent – Feedback from instance to instance must be consistent to provide the greatest opportunity for improved performance.  If something is incorrect on Monday, it should be incorrect the remainder of the week.  That’s overly simplistic, but I think you understand the point. 

As you prepare for next week, think of ways that you can incorporate feedback more effectively into your classroom.  You and your students will be glad you did!

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