What is formative feedback and why is it important? Follow
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Teacher feedback can be a powerful instructional tool to move students toward achieving their academic goals. One of the best ways to do this is to give feedback while learning is taking place, not just at the end of an assignment. This is called formative feedback.
With Hāpara tools at your side, you can harness their power to give consistent formative feedback and help your students succeed.
How does formative feedback work?
Formative feedback is information you give students to guide them as they’re learning. With formative feedback, there are multiple, informal and low-stakes feedback-learning cycles for each assignment.
This is more beneficial to learning than one summative high-stakes grade at the end of the assignment. That’s because there’s less of an emphasis on the grade and more opportunities for growth and learning. It also empowers students to improve and helps them more clearly understand concepts.
In fact, according to education researcher and expert John Hattie, formative feedback can be one of the most powerful methods for improving learning.
Why is formative feedback important in a digital context?
So much of learning has moved to the digital space, so to help students progress, formative feedback matters more than ever.
We all know that you can’t just give students an online assignment, send them off on their Chromebooks and expect them to learn the material on their own. Instead, quality interaction with your students is important because they’re on the computer more than ever before.
To lay the groundwork for effective formative feedback in the digital classroom:
- Create a culture of feedback
- Develop your role as a teacher and coach
How do you create a culture of feedback?
Being able to accept formative feedback goes hand in hand with a growth mindset culture. Without laying the groundwork to create this kind of culture, you may end up with students who, no matter how constructively and respectfully you frame your feedback, see it as criticism. This can be especially true of digital feedback, which can seem impersonal and doesn’t always convey the kind of gentle, soft tone we would use if giving it in person (even if you add an emoji).
Intelligence is malleable
Intelligence is unchangeable
Hard work leads to achievement
Hard work won’t help you achieve
Feedback is valuable and constructive
Feedback is evaluative and critical
Some strategies for creating a culture of feedback are:
- Model both giving and receiving feedback yourself
- Provide opportunities for students to give peer feedback
- Make rubrics and grading criteria transparent
Why is your role as both a teacher and a coach?
The idea of the teacher as a coach, or a “guide on the side” rather than a “sage on the stage,” means that teachers partner with students in the learning and knowledge creation process. While teachers are experts in the content, they can still engage in the learning process and reach students where they are with skill-building, redirection, encouragement or celebration.
What this means in the 21st-century context is that quality interaction between the teacher and student should be increased. Digital tools make giving quality feedback and coaching easier and more timely, freeing up teachers to do what humans do best: connect with students.
Sage on the stage
Guide on the side
Teaching is mostly in a whole class, lecture-style setting.
Teacher partners with students in the learning process as a teacher-coach.
Students mostly hear material in one way from just the teacher’s perspective.
Teaching is mostly in small groups and with individuals.
One-size-fits-all feedback comes with a grade or evaluation at the end of the assignment.
Students hear material in multiple ways from both teacher and peers.
Onus to learn material is on students.
Personalized feedback is given multiple times throughout the learning process.
Onus to learn material is shared between teacher and students.
How does your role work with formative feedback?
Key to this idea of the teacher as coach is seeing students as individuals and knowing their strengths and weaknesses. That way you can give students the personalized feedback they need so they can do their best work.
Instead of giving students an online assignment and letting them sit in front of their computers on their own for thirty minutes, you’re right there with each individual student in your class. You’re pushing their thinking and giving them personalized, in-the-moment feedback. This formative feedback demonstrates a solid understanding of where students are and where they need to go.
What are the characteristics of effective formative feedback?
There are some proven ways to get the best results when giving formative feedback.
Start with these formative feedback strategies in your classroom:
- Base formative feedback on formative assessment
- Make your feedback timely, personal, relevant (connected to goals), non-evaluative and respectful
- Make time for students to implement your formative feedback
Formative feedback quick guide
Ways to create a culture of feedback
Characteristics of effective formative feedback
Read this article to learn how to use Hāpara tools to streamline the feedback process.