Have you ever watched a student’s face after you’ve given them positive feedback on their performance or behavior? I have. Their reactions often mirror my own. I’ve seen them swell with pride and grin at their accomplishment. Others grow bashful at the praise and sheepishly murmur their thanks. It’s all a bit heartwarming.

Their responses confirm what we teachers already know: Student feedback is an incredibly powerful way to connect with our classroom and encourage them to develop as learners. It inspires them to grow and become better. With just a few careful words, you can literally transform a student’s attitude regarding education. In fact, research suggests giving feedback has more impact on student learning than any other instructional strategy. So then, why don’t we put more effort into giving it?

Timely Tips

The answer for many teachers boils down to time. Giving feedback takes careful thought and planning. It must also be consistent and ongoing. Otherwise, students may feel that the feedback they receive isn’t genuine. With all the obstacles teachers are currently facing under COVID-19, there just doesn’t seem to be time in the day for anything more. Thankfully, feedback comes in many different forms which can be effective when applied correctly.

Here are just 4 ideas to get you thinking in the right direction:

  • 1:1 Conferences: Take 3-5 minutes to conference with a student. Start with the positive qualities of the work, followed with constructive comments. Use questions to mediate thinking such as, “What do you mean by…?”, “Why do you think?”, “Can you expand on that?”, “Tell me more…”, “How could you change this to make it clearer?” Do this as you work the room or schedule conferences on a rotating basis. Individual conferencing is the most powerful form of feedback.
  • The PEN Strategy: Give focused, specific, and actionable feedback using the PEN strategy. Start with Positively identifying a strength. Then, be Explicit. Give specific and concrete suggestions for improvement. Finally, help the student identify the Next
  • ABC: When providing feedback to your students, use the ABC construct to help guide that process. Agree with…Build upon…Challenge you to…. This is a great way to keep the feedback focused and extend learning.
  • Where, not What: When correcting student work, don’t tell them what to fix; tell them where fixes are needed, and allow them to figure out what needs to be fixed. They can ask you for help, certainly — but with this strategy you subtly shift the emphasis away from yourself as the provider of knowledge, and onto the students as learners responsible for their own discoveries.
Just a Little Direction

Yes, giving feedback takes time and requires thoughtful planning, but the payoff is immense. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with these strategies, you’ll see the results and want to broaden your toolbox even more. By giving students positive reinforcement (and just a bit of direction) we can foster a classroom of thinkers who aren’t afraid to be curious, creative, and critical.

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