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Empower Students with Feedback


Teachers should model a growth mindset for students on a daily basis so that they are continuously open to suggestions for improvement as they set personal goals. The consistency of daily growth is key to acquiring improved skill because learning is an ongoing process, not just a single event.

It’s a simple equation:

Lack of Skill +  Feedback  +  Practice  =  Improved Skill

A student’s lack of skill can improve when combined with teacher feedback and additional opportunities for practice. This consistent cycle of behaviors and mindset ensure students are successful in and out of the classroom.

The feedback students receive from the teacher is the secret ingredient to this equation because when it’s done correctly, it can propel students towards their potential. To provide feedback correctly, teachers must implement a feedback loop before, during and after learning. This ensures students are supported in improvement with clear, actionable steps and encouragement from the instructional leader.

Before Feedback

Teachers must set the stage for feedback to occur by creating an environment fit for feedback, where praised efforts and suggestions for improvement occur seamlessly and consistently. Supportive feedback is not a one-time event; it’s a daily occurrence that repeats at numerous points throughout the learning experience so that students improve their work input and output. It is clear that a classroom is fit for feedback when the culture is such that students are receptive to hearing tips for improvement, they feel supported in their skill development, and they are empowered with next steps to get better.

During Feedback

When providing feedback, it’s important teachers follow a similar pattern so that it’s predictable for students and helps desensitize the experience. For example, a teacher might share a ‘glow’ (what students do well) prior to sharing a ‘grow’ (what students need to do differently.) It’s important to keep feedback short so students can remember it and implement it quickly and easily. In order to do so, feedback must be actionable steps students can take immediately. For example, instead of saying to a student “your concluding paragraph needs work,” you can be more specific by saying “in your conclusion, it is helpful to restate your stance on the topic and briefly summarize your main points you have previously stated.” The second example of feedback provides the student with a clear direction for what to fix and how to fix it. This feedback improved student performance and is an example of a respectful conversation between teacher and student.

To increase the likelihood of students following the feedback and understanding the rationale for the suggestion is to root all feedback in a rubric. This rubric can be provided to students before any assignment so that they know what is expected of them; a scale of 1- 5 works best so students know to what degree they met the expectations. When providing feedback, the teacher can point to the rubric and pull out specific language that describes current level of performance as well as the level of achievement desired. Now the student knows where they stand currently and where they need and want to go.

But feedback is more than just a few comments from the teacher to the student in regard to their current skill level. Feedback, when given correctly, provides clear steps on what and how to improve in a way that is encouraging and supportive. Following this simple criterion will ensure success: keep it simple, keep it unbiased, keep it actionable.

After Feedback

Teachers can hold students accountable for implementing feedback by having them write it down in a feedback journal. Then, the next time that student meets with the teacher, they will update the feedback portion to describe what changes were made and the degree to which they were successful. This documentation process is a back-up system to ensure students do not forget what they should be working towards, but it also helps students learn to track their own growth. Overtime, these journals document the growth of a student and that is worth celebrating!

Once the culture for feedback is created, and feedback is provided in an on-going consistent manner, then it’s time for teachers to provide numerous opportunities for practice. This ensures students cannot only improve their skills on a current assignment, but on all future assignments. Practice makes improvement a habit rather than a fluke because students understand how to apply the feedback in more than one scenario, which is a greater predictor of long term success.

Feedback fuels learning and can empower students when implemented effectively.


How do you provide feedback to students?

About the author, Gretchen

I am a teacher trainer and coach. Working elbow to elbow with teachers and teacher leaders to ensure instructional proficiency and student achievement soar lights me up. We have a real need in our nation for strong educators to remain in the field. My blog, book, podcast, courses and instructional materials are geared towards empowering teachers (and those that lead them) to receive the support needed to grow and thrive today, tomorrow and always.