Before providing feedback, teachers should provide high quality instruction, including the use of formative assessment strategies.
High quality initial instruction will reduce the work that feedback needs to do; formative assessment strategies are required to set learning intentions (which feedback will aim towards) and to assess learning gaps (which feedback will address).
There is not one clear answer for when feedback should be provided. Rather, teachers should judge whether more immediate or delayed feedback is required, considering the characteristics of the task set, the individual pupil, and the collective understanding of the class.
Feedback should focus on moving learning forward, targeting the specific learning gaps that pupils exhibit. Specifically, high quality feedback may focus on the task, subject, and self-regulation strategies.
Feedback that focuses on a learner’s personal characteristics, or feedback that offers only general and vague remarks, is less likely to be effective.
Careful thought should be given to how pupils receive feedback. Pupil motivation, self-confidence, their trust in the teacher, and their capacity to receive information can impact feedback’s effectiveness. Teachers should, therefore, implement strategies that encourage learners to welcome feedback, and should monitor whether pupils are using it.
Teachers should also provide opportunities for pupils to use feedback. Only then will the feedback loop be closed so that pupil learning can progress.
Written methods of feedback, including written comments, marks, and scores, can improve pupil attainment; however, the effects of written feedback can vary.
The method of delivery (and whether a teacher chooses to use written or verbal feedback) is likely to be less important than ensuring that the principles of effective teacher feedback (Recommendations 1 – 3) are followed. Written feedback may be effective if it follows high quality foundations, is timed appropriately, focuses on the task, subject, and/or self-regulation, and is then used by pupils.
Some forms of written feedback have also been associated with a significant opportunity cost due to their impact on teacher workload. This should be monitored by teachers and school leaders.
Verbal methods of feedback can improve pupil attainment and may be more time-efficient when compared to some forms of written feedback.
However, as with written feedback, the effects of verbal feedback can vary and the method of delivery is likely to be less important than ensuring the principles of effective teacher feedback (Recommendations 1 – 3) are followed.
Enacting these recommendations will require careful consideration and this implementation should be a staged process, not an event. This will include ongoing effective professional development.
Schools should design feedback policies which promote and exemplify the principles of effective feedback (Recommendations 1 – 3). Policies should not over-specify features such as the frequency or method of feedback.