Many researchers believe that constructive feedback is a powerful tool for promoting children’s social, moral, and intellectual development. However, giving feedback to students can be very risky. Whilst it is necessary for enhancing academic success, it can have detrimental effects if not done appropriately.
All students – but more often those at academic risk – may misinterpret feedback, which can undermine their motivation and self-confidence. This would, obviously, have negative effects on their learning progress. So, how can teachers give criticism that shapes learning and leads to academic success?
What is Wise Feedback?
The term “Wise Feedback” in the research refers to feedback that emphasises high standards but also alongside a belief that the student can meet them. This combination of high standards and a belief that students can meet them offers a balance between students not settling for their current level (i.e improving motivation) whilst also not damaging their confidence for not meeting the current expected level.
Wise Feedback is an effective tool to increase learning because it can promote the development of a growth mindset in students. It also helps teachers create a focus on developing intelligence and independence to motivate students to become better learners.
What does the evidence say about Wise Feedback?
Research shows that Wise Feedback improved the quality of students’ final drafts of an essay they were asked to write for class. After receiving the wise feedback, 64% of students went on to make the necessary changes to their essays, compared to only 27% of students in the standard feedback condition. Such a difference cannot be ignored. The students felt motivated by the constructive criticism and took it into account in order to improve their work.
Wise Feedback is also a tool for facilitating a growth mindset. Evidence suggests that students with a growth mindset are significantly more oriented towards academic goals than students with a fixed mindset. In the study previously linked, 373 students were tested at the start of the school year and then just before the winter holidays. Researchers found that math grades for the growth mindset students continued to increase, whilst those with the fixed mindset suffered a decrease in scores.
3 tips for giving Wise Feedback
1. Keep the focus on student learning
Whilst providing students with feedback, try and keep it specific. For example, “Good progress with content, you need some more practice with structure”. This way, you avoid implying that this performance is based on the student’s natural ability and instead highlights the quality of the work itself.
2. Point out the good bits, too
Very often, we can identify the mistakes a student has made but fail to recognise the areas in which they have excelled. There are many techniques you can use to remind yourself of this – for example, for every three notes you give students on what to improve, find one note you can give on what they have done well. This balance in feedback will motivate them to keep improving, as their hard work is being recognised.
3. Offer the opportunity to discuss your feedback
After marking an assignment, relay to your students that they are welcome to come and see you to discuss any questions they may have regarding your feedback. Sometimes, feedback can be unclear, but it is important for students to fully understand your point and how to action it.
Teachers are the catalyst to students’ academic progress. Not only does their method of teaching have a huge impact on how students learn, but the type of feedback they provide is crucial too. It is essential to remind students that their time at school is a time for progress. A bad grade on one assignment does not indicate a student’s potential, simply their skills at that exact point in time.
As outlined above, giving Wise Feedback ensures that students take the constructive criticism as a motivator instead of a personal attack. By making sure your feedback is specific to the work and not the student, you can reduce the chances of hindering their confidence. There can often be a fine line between good and bad feedback and at times, it can be difficult to judge where your comments lie. However, keeping track of student progress and their responses to you will indicate if your feedback is wise.