5 Tips for Giving Good Feedback

Keep feedback focused on learners and their work.

Draw attention to what is working and try to describe why you think it works. In some cases the learner will not recognize what is working; in many cases the learner will not understand why something works.

Limit talking about your own models for how things “should work” to instances when talking about them will help the learner establish – or refine – their own.

Bridge “corrections” between learner intentions and desired outcomes.

When the learner must be corrected for inadequate work, reach out to learn their intentions. Use feedback to bridge the gap between their intentions and the assignment’s desired outcomes. The learner wants to do well. Expect that their intentions resulted in inadequate work because they did not know how to do – or to recognize – better work.

Draw connections that will help learners understand their own processes.

Encourage reflection. Ask learners to think about why they did something in a particular way. Ask them to consider what they bring as individuals to their field. Encourage them to personalize their work by drawing attention to and showcasing their intentions and strategies. Learners may remain unaware of what they’re doing, or even why, until you ask them to reflect.

Be specific, and support feedback with evidence.

Tie your feedback explicitly to the course outcomes, and support what you say with evidence from the field. Resist providing nebulous and/or unsupported feedback because those often draw upon your own convictions for support – and the learner might not share those. What the two of you do share, however, are the course outcomes and the realities of the field. Use them as fixed points.

Ask questions.

When in doubt, ask questions. Invite learners to collaborate in their own education. Ask if the learner has any questions, or if the learner would like to provide any feedback, themselves. Remember that you are, sometimes, the learner, and that that is a good thing.

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