The Importance of Timely and Effective Feedback

By Bethany Spencer on March, 9 2017
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Marking, although time consuming, is paramount to students’ progression. It is considered by Ofsted as instrumental to the quality of teaching whilst the Sutton Trust Education Endowment Foundation found that providing constructive and purposeful feedback can add up to eight months’ learning onto a student's education at a low cost. But in order for feedback and grades to have the maximum impact in the classroom, they need to be provided promptly and with clear direction.

It is no secret that teachers have an immense amount of work on their plates and it’s important to be realistic about when we can actually give feedback by, but the impact of providing timely feedback should be kept in mind when making this decision. Feedback should be given whilst the assignment or topic covered is still at the forefront of students’ minds, so that they consider it important as well as relevant, but also so they can apply the direction you’ve given to their future work, which will ultimately help them to progress further. Timely feedback ensures that nothing is lost, that students can still apply what they’ve learnt and take on board suggestions to improve their greater understanding of a topic.

Feedback needs to be specific so students can fully understand what teachers are asking of them and are fully equipped with the knowledge of how they can improve. If feedback is vague and nonspecific it can in fact have the opposite desired effect, to motivate and improve understanding, and can actually lead to students becoming frustrated, unmotivated and unable to apply any notes to their work to improve.

Although providing written responses and annotating students’ work is a sound way to communicate feedback, it does take time. One of the great things about giving direction and communicating areas for improvement is that this can be done verbally. For example, if your entire class is struggling on a particular area, this can be addressed to the whole class as opposed to feeding back to multiple students individually.

Furthermore, receiving positive feedback is what can motivate our students to continue working hard and applying knowledge they have learnt to their work - praise and positive feedback are in fact one of the same thing and don’t necessarily need to be done in a formal manner, it can be as simple as saying ‘well done’ or ‘great job’ either when students answer a question right or when completing a task. These simple acts can give students the drive to continue working hard and apply themselves.

There are tools that can be used to support the giving of feedback so that it becomes less work for teachers and also more effective for students. Within Show My Homework, we offer a Gradebook and Comments feature that allow teachers to grade work online but also provide comments alongside offering praise, areas for improvement and the ability to attach resources and links that can further support their students. Students can also respond to teachers so if they need further clarification they don’t have to wait until their next lesson with a teacher and can progress quicker in their studies.

There are aspects of teaching that can seem daunting and also take up a lot of our time, but regardless of the tools you do or don’t use to streamline processes, education is a giving community where we realise the benefits of sharing best practice and working together to achieve our goals. In essence, we’re dedicated to imparting any knowledge in the hopes of benefitting educators so we can continue to learn together.

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