Feedback is a key influence on learning and achievement (Hattie and Timperley, 2007). In Hattie’s (Hattie, 1999) ground-breaking study, feedback was placed within the top 5-10 influences on student achievement (effect size 0.79). Feedback can be defined as information provided by an agent regarding aspects of one’s performance or understanding.

The aim of feedback is to provide information about what is currently understood, what is aimed to be understood and how to fill that gap. ​

There are two predominant ways feedback can impact on students: Affective processes, such as effort, motivation and engagement; or cognitive processes, such as restructuring understanding, confirming if they are correct or incorrect, indicating the need for more information, indicating the directions students should pursue or indicating alternative strategies. Once feedback is provided, students have the opportunities to accept, modify or reject this feedback.

Feedback Strategies

There are a number of strategies teachers can implement to promote feedback being accepted and implemented with students. These can be divided into two categories:

  1. Feedback focused on affective processes (why students go about a task)
  2. Feedback focused on cognitive processes (how students go about a task)

Affective processes such as engagement, motivation and effect can be encouraged by promoting a growth mindset; rewarding effort-based activities rather than achievement and by a positive teacher student relationship. These processes increase self-regulated learning strategies in students and the desire to learn.

Growth Mindset

Growth mindset underpins the idea that every student has the ability to improve, to learn and to achieve. Some students may be more inherently talented, but by rewarding the process and the effort that is focused on a task, rather than just the result, the correct positive learning behaviours are encouraged. Students know that if they work hard and stay open to feedback and learning, that, over time, they will improve. This way of thinking is invaluable and can be reinforced through a positive teacher-student relationship. If the relationship is positive, students will be very open to learning and feedback and be driven to improve.

Hattie and Timperley (Hattie and Timperley, 2007) reviewed 196 studies on feedback in order to identify influences on student achievement. This research determined that average student growth over two semesters close to doubled as a result of effective feedback.

Feedback on cognitive processes, or specific to a task can be more effective if feedback is timely and specific. The timing of feedback has been shown to be incredibly important to how a student implements this feedback. After doing a task, if students receive timely feedback on what they are doing well and what they could improve on, it can significantly improve their cognitive processes. Not only that, it will also improve how they go about those tasks and, over time, it can encourage effort-based learning and a growth mindset. This can be difficult, but with automatically marked and analysed formative assessments this can be simplified for teachers to allow students to understand what they do know, what they don’t know, and how to fill the gap.

Overall, if feedback is used effectively in the classroom, if it is timely and specific, and if it helps students actively participate in their learning, it can have an enormous impact on an individual’s desire to learn.

Hattie, J & Timperley, H. (2007). The Power of Feedback, Auckland: Review of Educational Research
Hattie, J (1999), Influences on Student Learning, Auckland: ​University of Auckland