Seven Keys to Effective Feedback

What is true feedback—and how can it improve learning?

I recently read this article in “Educational Leadership Feedback for Learning” by Grant Wiggins.

There is always a lot of debate going on about classroom instructions and, how students learn and how teachers assess their work. At our school we spend a lot of time scheduling the tests for the school year, and each year both students and teachers complain. Too many tests during too few weeks. The focus on tests that seem to be the drive for how the school year is planned, combined with the structure of the lesson, are they based on lectures and individual work alone to be followed by a test? This makes me think about how we give feedback and if we are improving learning the way we could. In this article Grant Wiggins writes that research shows that less teaching plus more feedback is the key to achieving greater learning. And there are numerous ways—through technology, peers, and other teachers—that students can get the feedback they need. I have listed his 7 keys here! Even if formative assessment is a term most teachers are familiar with I wish teachers and school leaders spent more time discussion how to achieve effective feedback. It should be an ongoing discussion in all schools! Let’s start all our lessons with “Guys, the point here is to……That’s the key think we’ll be looking for in peer review and my feedback to you!

  1. Goal-referenced Effective feedback requires that a person has a goal, takes action to achieve the goal, and receives goal-related information about his or her actions;
  2. Tangible and transparent Any useful feedback system involves not only a clear goal, but also tangible results related to the goal
  3. Actionable; Effective feedback is concrete, specific, and useful; it provides actionable information. actionable feedback about what went right is as important as feedback about what didn’t work.
  4. User-friendly (specific and personalized); Too much feedback is also counter productive; better to help the performer concentrate on only one or two key elements of performance than to create a buzz of information coming in from all sides.
  5. Timely; In most cases, the sooner the student gets feedback, the better. Most teachers find this impossible. The article suggests more use of technology and peer review when possible. It’s essential, however, to train students to do small-group peer review to high standards, without immature criticisms or unhelpful praise.
  6. Ongoing; What makes any assessment in education formative is not merely that it precedes summative assessments, but that the performer has opportunities, if results are less than optimal, to reshape the performance to better achieve the goal. In summative assessment, the feedback comes too late; the performance is over.
  7. Consistent. In education, that means teachers have to be on the same page about what high-quality work is. Teachers need to look at student work together, becoming more consistent over time and formalizing their judgements in highly descriptive rubrics supported by anchor products and performances.


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