Feedback plays a very important role in higher education. For one thing, it’s a great way to support your students’ learning processes. But not all feedback is created equal. In fact, most of the time, students have to contend with nothing but a numeric grade to give them any indication of their academic achievements. Assessments like these contain not nearly enough information to allow them to gain a deeper understanding of their work. Students subsequently go away from a course or assignment unsure about what aspects of their work need improvement and what worked well. So, what does feedback need to look like in order for it to actually move the needle and influence learning behavior?
How Does Feedback Influence Learning Behavior?
Feedback is generally understood to mean information about learning success and/or learning behavior. But there’s more to it than that. Depending on the level of nuance that goes into student assessment, feedback can work on several different levels of the learning process (Winne & Butler, 1994). For instance, it may help students:
- Understand the assignment
- Gain expertise
- Use suitable learning strategies
- Control and monitor their own learning process
- Feel like they’re up to the task
Feedback supports students in discovering errors or shortcomings and how to remedy those in the future. Additionally, it helps students understand the kind of learning strategies that are most effective for certain tasks and how these will help them reach their goals in the long run. Regular feedback helps students reflect on their own process of learning and, if necessary, regulate it (Van der Kleij et al., 2015). The point of feedback, then, is to impart important information on how students can improve their academic performance. It gives them an idea of what they’re already doing well, but also doesn’t shy away from pointing out aspects that could be improved, and how to do so. Feedback that is balanced and well-articulated can motivate students to reflect on their own progress and how they can optimize their learning behavior. In this way, feedback also has a lot of influence on student motivation (Mäkipää & Hildén, 2021).
Due to these various areas of influence, feedback is one of the most powerful tools instructors have at their disposal to help guide and promote student learning behavior. However, for feedback to actually matter to students, it needs to be constructive and well-put. But what does “good” feedback look like?
What Does Good Feedback Look Like?
David J. Nicola and Debra Macfarlane-Dick (2006) have developed seven principles of good feedback practice that instructors in higher education can use as a guideline. The video below introduces their seven principles with a brief explanation.
To help integrate the seven principles of good feedback into your own teaching, you can use the following checklist (PDF-document) as a guideline:
- Create Clarity
- What does good academic performance look like to me? What does my sample solution look like and what criteria do I want students to fulfill?
- Did I give my students enough information about what I expect from them?
- Foster Self Reflection
- Before giving feedback, I ask students to evaluate their own performance.
- I ask students where they see their greatest progress in the coursework they have completed for my class.
- Provide Good Quality Information
- What aspects of student performance do I want to focus on?
- Where do I see the greatest potential for progress and improvement?
- Engage in Dialogue About the Learning Process
- I ask students how they approached the assignment.
- I talk with students about the merits and demerits of their approach.
- I ask them what they would do differently next time.
- Raising Student Self-Esteem
- What did students excel in when completing the assignment?
- Where do I see the greatest improvement in skill level compared to before?
- Closing the Gap Between Current Performance and Goals
- What needs to happen for current student performance to meet the defined criteria and expectations? What topics need to be revised, and how?
- How can students close gaps in their knowledge?
- How can I support them in this?
- Integrate into Own Teaching
- What information can I draw from student performance, and how do I integrate it into my own teaching?
- What do I need to change, reorganize, or develop more for the next assignment?
- What should stay the same for the next assignment?
Depending on the assignment or the group of students you are dealing with, you might weigh these seven principles of good feedback differently, but it’s still a good idea to always try and take all of them into account.
What’s your experience been like with feedback in higher education? Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section.
Nicola, D. J., & Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2006). Formative assessment and selfregulated learning: a model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in Higher Education, 31 (2), S. 199-218. DOI: 10.1080/03075070600572090
Winne, P. H., & Butler, D. L. (1994). Student cognition in learning from teaching. In T. Husen & T. Postlewaite (Eds.), International encyclopaedia of education (2. Hrsg., S. 5738–5745). Oxford, UK: Pergamon.
Van der Kleij, F. M., Feskens, R. C. W., & Eggen, T. J. H. M. (2015). Effects of Feedback in a Computer-Based Learning Environment on Students’ Learning Outcomes: A Meta-Analysis. Review of Educational Research, 85 (4), S. 475-511. DOI: 10.3102/0034654314564881
Suggestion for citation of this blog post: Rottmeier, S (2021, April 22). There’s More to it Than Just “Good Job!” – The 7 Principles of Good Feedback. Lehrblick – ZHW Uni Regensburg. https://doi.org/10.5283/ZHW.20210422.EN