By Lisa Stutts, Special Education Teacher, Northern Parkway School, 2015 National School of Character

As teachers, it is essential that we make the process of providing feedback a positive learning experience for each student. Feedback paves the way for continued learning.

Consider the following 4 tips to effective feedback all while building character.

  1.    Be Specific and Factual

When providing feedback it is very important to be specific. Being specific helps students increase understanding and become partners in the learning process. Although saying “good job” may evoke a smile, it will leave the student with a sense of vagueness.  Those words never tell the learner what he did right, and where might he go next. Statements such as “Not quite there yet” or “almost” don’t give any insight into what was wrong and what can be done differently. Teachers will also be left with the same sense of uncertainty.  This vagueness hinders the assessment process and is not productive. Specific feedback allows students to take responsibility for their learning and develop insight. It also allows for the development of respect for the teacher and themselves as they receive ongoing feedback throughout the year. Educators need to take the time to tell students exactly what they did wrong and what they can do next. Always be factual, leaving opinion-based feedback out.   

  1. Be Positive / Provide Hope  

It is most effective to provide feedback in a positive manner. Be aware of body language and eye contact. It is helpful to look students in the eye with genuine care and concern. Prompt students to maintain eye contact with you; it will increase student accountability. ALWAYS provide hopeful words! Our students struggle in a variety of ways, and fostering hope is a gift we provide as educators to develop character. As beneficial as feedback is, it can also be counterproductive if presented in a negative way.  If students receive a negative vibe, they will retract and feel hopeless.

Words of praise foster the emotional bond between teacher and students. Try turning the praise back on the student. Instead of “ I am proud of you” say “ you must be proud of yourself”  . This allows the student to internalize the success and own it.  Try saying , I like the way you did___________ What was your thinking?,  Is there another way?, You are on the right track and here is why.  This is a gentle student-driven approach to corrective feedback.  Always let students know specifically how far they have come, even if they have a long way to reaching their learning goals.  Adjust feedback for different learners. Some may need simple language, less wordy. Some may need feedback in written form with visuals. Students must understand feedback, or there is no value, so keep it student friendly.

  1.  Timing Counts

Effective feedback should be quick. Educators need to approach students while they are are mindful of the topic. When possible, give same day or next day feedback. Provide some direction about what is expected next. Allow students time to go back and try again, this shows you believe in them. 

  1.  Ongoing Feedback is a two-way process that  involves learners

Feedback is communication, which is a two-way process. Students need to know if they have or have not mastered a concept.  Also, they need a plan to get them to mastery. It is the feedback that will help adjust the plan. These adjustments provide hope and rejuvenation. Allow students to have a voice. Encourage them to comment or question your feedback, after a short wait time for them to process information. Don’t forget to ask for their feedback, it’s empowering for them and their learning.

As educators we can’t underestimate the power of feedback and it’s ability to build character.