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A Formula for Student Feedback

by Model Teaching | March 23, 2023.

Your students need a model for improving their work; with timely and specific feedback, it will be easier for them to work to improve in certain areas. Student feedback identifies particular areas of student performance and provides insight into their strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, feedback should be a natural component of most assessment methods you provide in your classroom. This article will give you a brief set of steps to help you build timely and targeted student feedback.

While this article is not all-encompassing, it should give you a starting point to reach your students more effectively, boost their confidence, and ultimately improve their behavioral and academic performance.

Student Feedback

The Four Steps for Providing Student Feedback:

  1. Begin with a clear set of criteria.
  2. Record low inference and specific evidence of student behaviors aligned with your criteria.
  3. Provide at least two components of positive feedback to every component of negative feedback.
  4. Provide an explicit, narrowly focused solution to the improvement feedback.

1. Begin with a clear set of criteria. Provide a specific rubric for the objectives of your assignment.

With a clearly defined goal for your students that includes explicit evidence you will be looking for in an assignment, you will be able to provide the correct feedback for students to improve.

In a presentation, you may want to measure oral skills. Selecting criteria that provide a specific picture of what students must demonstrate is critical. Take a look at this table that includes a sampling of some characteristics the teacher may wish to identify in a student’s speech. On the left is a teacher’s original set of criteria to measure student performance in a presentation. On the right is a modified version the teacher created that provides more explicit details he will look for during the student’s presentation.

Confidence
  • Eye contact with the audience
  • Fully memorized speech
  • Uses voice inflection to emphasize key points
Volume
  • Speech can be heard in the back row of the classroom
  • Posture of a high chest and shoulders slightly down is visible
  • Key words in speech are clearly louder for emphasis
Pacing
  • Speech is an average of 120 wpm
  • The words recited have a logical grouping
  • Pauses were intentionally used

You may notice that while the left-hand column provides criteria for what the teacher is looking for, it does not explicitly identify the specific content required for the student to display during the speech. By instead writing your rubric as the student behavior you wish to see during the presentation, you can assist the students with your exact requirements for a successful presentation and then point to areas of strength and weakness to better help your students improve.

2. Record low inference, specific evidence of student behaviors aligned with your criteria.

Once you have built a set of observable and specific criteria, you are ready to record your observations. As students complete the activity, you will note both the exemplary behaviors you witness and the behaviors that do not meet your established criteria. Any exemplary behaviors can also include a note on how the student met your standard or where he or she fell short. For example, in the table below, at left, you will see a few classroom rules that students should follow as part of a teacher’s classroom management plan. At right are her specific behavioral observations for one student exhibiting certain classroom behaviors.

Classroom Rules

Observation

Keep hands and feet to yourself. After lunch, Jacob kicked another student.
Raise your hand to ask or answer a question. Jacob raised his hands three times throughout the day and called out an answer one time.
Use inside voices at all times in the classroom. Jacob whispered at his group activity.
Jacob called out to a friend on the other side of the classroom.

Note that the observations list the actual student behavior the teacher witnessed; without inference or bias. You will also see a mix of positive and negative behaviors associated with each classroom rule. Teachers should never assume a rationale for why a student is doing something; instead, the teacher should use only the explicit behavioral or academic evidence matched to the criteria he or she is measuring. By recording both the positive and negative behaviors, the teacher will be prepared to provide positive and improvement feedback to the student next.

3. Provide at least two components of positive feedback to every component of negative feedback.

Students crave your feedback and support. Particularly for students struggling or needing significant improvement guidance, it can be demoralizing to consistently earn low marks, receive negative feedback, or be counseled for ways to improve. Regardless of their abilities, every student can be provided with positive and improvement feedback. Take a look at this example feedback report for a student’s most recent essay.

You used all three “high quality” vocabulary words in your essay.

You also included the two strong verbs that accurately convey the tone of your essay.

I think that your choice of vocabulary and verbs helped for you to portray the sadness the author was attempting to convey in his work, and you demonstrated your understanding of the tone of his piece in your summary essay. Well done!


3 sentences were not complete and were considered run-on sentences. Though your essay beautifully portrayed the tone of the author’s work in your summary, a few sentences “did not make sense” and were fused sentences. It required me to re-read those sentences more than once to ensure I understood what you wanted to convey.

For your next essay, I’d like you to take a piece of paper and cover up all lines of your essay except for one. Line by line, I’d like you to read each sentence in isolation. As you read, ask yourself, “can I add a comma or period anywhere in this sentence?” By slowing down and analyzing each sentence independently, you can better find and correct your fused sentences for next time.

Notice how the teacher provided low-inference, clear evidence for what she saw when reading the student’s essay and then expanded on what that meant for the quality of the essay.

In her improvement feedback in the second box, you may also notice that she provided a specific strategy for the student to try to improve in one area. You’ll learn more about that final step next.

4. Provide an explicit, narrowly focused solution to the improvement feedback.

This solution can be in the form of a suggestion to practice, a resource to access, or steps the student can follow for the future. This is the most critical step for providing improvement feedback. Often, a student may even know where they fall short academically or behaviorally, but they simply do not have the skills or tools to understand how to improve. It is your job as their teacher to provide clear guidance in an easy-to-implement way so your students can experience success. Take a look at this same positive and improvement feedback example and analyze the highlighted area. Notice the exact strategy the teacher wants the student to try, as it is specifically related to helping the student improve in his identified weak academic area.

You used all three “high quality” vocabulary words in your essay.

You also included the two strong verbs that accurately convey the tone of your essay.

I think that your choice of vocabulary and verbs helped for you to portray the sadness the author was attempting to convey in his work, and you demonstrated your understanding of the tone of his piece in your summary essay. Well done!


3 sentences were not complete and were considered run-on sentences.

Though your essay beautifully portrayed the tone of the author’s work in your summary, a few sentences “did not make sense” and were fused sentences. It required me to re-read those sentences more than once to ensure I understood what you wanted to convey.

For your next essay, I’d like you to take a piece of paper and cover up all lines of your essay except for one. Line by line, I’d like you to read each sentence in isolation. As you read, ask yourself, “can I add a comma or period anywhere in this sentence?” By slowing down and analyzing each sentence independently, you can better find and correct your fused sentences for next time.

A completed feedback report can include all the components outlined in this article. Below is an example feedback report from a science presentation where students were tasked with reporting their findings from a recent lab experiment.

Your Objectives Observed?
Your conclusions support your data.
Your data is displayed and labeled using either a graph, table, or chart.
Your experimental design includes one control and one changed variable.
Your introduction includes three key details from the readings.
What You Did Well:
I was impressed with your data collection method and the way that you displayed it clearly using the line graph. It captured the data and allowed me to quickly and easily visualize your results. It also clearly showed your experimental design and the variable that you tested.
Area for Improvement:
In your conclusion, you stated that the temperature would decrease over time. While this could be true, your graph doesn’t necessarily support that. In your graph, your last data point shows a slight decrease, though it is not statistically significant.
Your Next Steps:
Consider repeating this experiment but extending the time to view whether the temperature decreases. I would also like you to read pages 56- 62 of your data analysis book, which covers strategies for drawing conclusions from data. Once you are done reading, let’s plan to meet on Friday for a brief 5-minute conference to review what you learned.

You may have noticed that even though the teacher did not observe an introduction with three key details, which was a requirement for the science presentation, the improvement feedback was instead only focused on the conclusion criterion. A teacher can certainly note the areas where a student fell short; however, a narrow focus is best for feedback to be effective and most rapidly improve student performance.

Using the feedback formula in your classroom

Student feedback is a critical component of a student’s educational journey. It serves as a means to guide students toward exemplary academic and behavioral performances by highlighting strengths and encouraging improvement in any areas of weakness. It should become a natural component of your classroom in a variety of ways. Below are several examples of how you might consider implementing this kind of feedback in your classroom.

  1. Learning a new method for solving math word problems. Utilize a feedback system to help students identify what steps they need to improve upon (annotating their word problem, checking their work, or building a picture or grid, for example).
  2. Utilized as a behavior management technique for struggling students. Students that struggle with following classroom rules can greatly benefit from this technique.
  3. Any formal or practice presentations, like recitations, oral reports, science presentations, and more. Helping students build strong oral presentation skills is an area that reaches across all content areas.
  4. Mastering new writing techniques or improving essay writing. When students are introduced to new grammar rules and writing conventions, a clear method for writing feedback can greatly enhance their writing skills.
  5. As an analysis of their art or musical abilities. Students can work on specific areas at a time to improve their artistic skills in art and music class.

Of course, this list is not-inclusive, and any content area teacher can plan for specific feedback methods for their students. However, with a structured and consistent feedback formula that you put to use, you and your students will reap the benefits of targeted feedback that improves student performance.

Closing thoughts:

Feedback should be timely! If you are focused on student improvement, your students need to connect their performance quickly with your feedback. This is not the time to wait three weeks to return feedback; good feedback can be in the moment, at the end of the day, or at the latest, at the end of the week.

Feedback does not need to be extensive! Narrowly focused feedback is the most effective at helping students focus on one area at a time for improvement. It’s better to provide less feedback in one specific area for improvement rather than provide an extensive report that may confuse and overwhelm your students.

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Student Feedback Template-Icon

Student Feedback Template

You can utilize the provided sample feedback form for your students or build your own form specific to your course and content needs.

  • TRY THIS

Analyze your current class or activity objective and identify 1- 2 areas where feedback can either be implemented or modified and improved upon. Build a plan to provide feedback in a timely fashion and includes periodic student conferences for an added benefit.

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