Feedback is considered by many education experts to be one of the most important elements of assessment for student learning as well as being a crucial influence on student learning (Brown, Harris & Harnett, 2012). Feedback, when applied effectively, can result in an increase in learner satisfaction and persistence as well as contributing to students taking on and applying more productive learning strategies. Feedback is a powerful strategy for teachers of all subjects and grade levels to use and has been endorsed worldwide.
Feedback can be defined as ‘the information provided by an agent, for example; a teacher or parent, regarding aspects of one’s performance or understanding’ (Brown, Harris & Harnett, 2012). However, when feedback is provided to students inappropriately it can lead to negative effects. This is why, as teachers, we need to have a full understanding of what constitutes effective quality feedback as well as developing an understanding of how to apply feedback in an appropriate manner for our students as differentiated learners (Clark, 2012).
Feedback is consistent with the Assessment for learning strategy which focuses assessment on in-course improvement-orientated interactions between instructors and learners rather than end-of-course testing and examinations (Brown, Harris & Harnett, 2012). Assessment for learning acknowledges that individual students learn in idiosyncratic ways and is designed to give information to teachers on how to modify and differentiate teaching and learning activities as well as giving teachers an idea of how best to provide effective feedback to their students (Brown, Harris & Harnett, 2012).
There are a few guidelines in which teachers can follow to help improve the quality of their feedback to their students to increase learner satisfaction and persistence as well as catering for differentiated learning, these guidelines include timing, amount, mode, audience (James-Ward, Fisher, Frey & Lapp, 2013) and also allowing students to provide one another with feedback (Brown, Harris & Harnett, 2012). The timing in which teachers provide their students with feedback is important as feedback needs to come while students are still mindful of the topic, assignment or performance in question (James-Ward, Fisher, Frey & Lapp, 2013).
Feedback needs to be provided while students are still thinking of their learning goal as a learning goal, meaning; something they are still striving for and not something they have already done (Brown, Harris & Harnett, 2012). It is extremely important to provide students with effective feedback whilst they are still working on reaching their learning target, as mentioned earlier this will influence student learning. It is extremely important for teachers to know the audience in which they are providing feedback to in order for the feedback to be most effective for student learning (James-Ward, Fisher, Frey & Lapp, 2013).
This is based on the fact that no student is the same and feedback needs to accommodate for differentiated learners (Clark, 2012). Once a teacher understands his or her students individual learning they can then apply feedback in a way that is best addressed to the student about the specifics of the individuals work in terms the student can understand. Mode is also extremely important in providing effective feedback as it also supports differentiated learning.
Mode stands for the different ways in which feedback can be delivered as it can be given in many modalities (James-Ward, Fisher, Frey & Lapp, 2013). Some sorts of assessment lend themselves better to written feedback, some to oral feedback and others are better in demonstrations, and teachers can decide with their knowledge of how best to provide each individual student with feedback based on how they learn and understand best, whether it is written, spoken or demonstrated, in order for the feedback to be most effective in reaching each students learning needs (Clark, 2012).
Also recently there has been an increasing agreement that students are a legitimate source of feedback as peer and self-assessment practices encourage students to identify learning objectives and helps them to understand the criteria used to judge their work aiming to reach the goal of increasing self-regulation (Brown, Harris & Harnett, 2012).
As timeliness can play a real issue in the effectiveness and quality of feedback from teachers, using students as a source of feedback can legitimately reduce this problem (Brown, Harris & Harnett, 2012). As there are many different ways in which a teacher can go about providing feedback on set learning tasks to their students whether it is orally, written or demonstrated, the ways in which to construct effective feedback varies depending on the student (James-Ward, Fisher, Frey & Lapp, 2013).
Ultimately it is the teachers understanding of feedback and the knowing of how each individual student learns best that influences the type and quality of feedback they provide (Brown, Harris & Harnett, 2012). Effective feedback will help increase student evaluation of their own learning progress and will help reach the Assessment for learning goal of developing self-regulating learners (Brown, Harris & Harnett, 2012).