The Incredible Power of Feedback

Based on articles by Professor John Hattie and others

We know that students in lectures learn most in the first 8 minutes, only recall three things at most after one hour, and that if the content does not shake their prior beliefs, they, they will file away the fascinating facts in the deepest recesses of their brain, if at all.
The keys to student learning are:

• Set very clear GOALS and have lots of communication between teacher and student about them;

• Give huge dollops of feedback to students about those goals – how close they are to achieving them;

• Receive feedback FROM the student about how our teaching methods are working for that student (not always easy to take!)

• Gently “raise the bar” as students achieve
each goal.

• Challenge the beliefs of students with what we
teach.

It is well known that feedback – specific information about how the student is doing about their goals, not just praise or reinforcement – is more powerful than any other one thing a teacher can do. It is more powerful than classroom computers, more powerful than school policy, even more powerful than peer pressure or extrinsic rewards.

According to Hattie et al, Feedback is most effective when it is HIGHLY SPECIFIC, and contains specific, non-judgemental information about how a student can improve their approach. He lists THREE levels of feedback that are known to work well, depending on whether they are directed at the student’s :

1. TASK (e.g. “you need to include more discussion about this”)
2. APPROACH (e.g. “You’ll do better if you relax before the test”)
3. CONFIDENCE (e.g. “You’ve learned this, you know you can do it.”)

He also lists a fourth type of feedback, which he and other researchers have shown to be the LEAST EFFECTIVE. It relates to praise and feedback about a student’s inborn abilities, rather than their effort.

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