Methods of Providing Student Feedback

We do not learn from experience... we learn from reflecting on experience.”

― John Dewey

If John Dewey’s maxim is true, feedback is pivotal to the learning process. Feedback structures invite students into self-reflection and help them develop new strategies for future challenges. 

The methods for providing student feedback can be categorized based on how and when feedback is given, what the goal of that feedback is, and who is providing the feedback. Below are key categories to consider when designing your feedback process. 

Informal vs. Formal Feedback:

Formal feedback is documented and presented through mechanisms such as instructor evaluations, grades on exams, and comments on written assignments. Informal feedback is impromptu and unstructured, often arising from interactions in a classroom, a clinical setting, or a one-on-one meeting with an instructor.

Ideally, students will receive both kinds of feedback on an ongoing basis. While informal feedback is likely to be timely and can help students immediately reflect on their performance, formal feedback is typically more thorough and includes specific recommendations for growth. A platform like Leo can help with all kinds of feedback by compiling a student’s assignments, quizzes, and evaluations in the comprehensive Academic Portrait

Formative vs. Summative Feedback:

Formative feedback focuses on how students can grow over time. Since the goal is to encourage self-directed learning, students may be given the opportunity to practice or resubmit their work. Formative activities are typically not graded and might include interactive classroom activities, homework, and surveys.

Summative feedback measures student learning against specific benchmarks. The goal is to determine how much a student has learned at the end of a class, unit, or topic. Summative assessments are typically graded and may come in the form of a final exam, project, or research report.

Corrective vs. Affirming Feedback:

Corrective feedback identifies opportunities for improvement. Well-constructed corrective feedback provides clarity on where a misstep occurred and how to take steps toward improvement. 

Affirming feedback recognizes that students need to hear what they are doing well to reinforce desired behavior and provide ongoing motivation to learn and grow. Useful affirming feedback is specific, not just a general self-esteem boost. It highlights a student’s knowledge, demonstrated skills, and marked improvements. 

A strategy like the “compliment sandwich” can help integrate the positive and negative in a way that is digestible. Start with an affirming observation (compliment), introduce the area for improvement (correction), and end by affirming that the student has the ability to improve by taking concrete steps (compliment). 

Instructor, Peer, or Self Feedback:

While ongoing feedback from instructors is critical, receiving formal evaluations from other students and creating space for self-reflection can be equally important to the learning process. 

Peers may notice things that instructors do not and can provide unique perspectives on how they have tackled similar challenges. Peer feedback can come through informal surveys or even a summative component of a final assessment. 

Self-evaluations can provide much-needed space for students to reconnect to their learning objectives and commit to an action plan for growth. Since students can be particularly self-critical, self-evaluations should offer a clearly defined set of criteria. Self scores can even be reviewed alongside faculty scores, allowing for richer discussions between students and their instructors. 

Leo provides an easy way to administer and review faculty, peer, and self evaluations across your program. To learn more about the tools available through the Leo platform, contact us today.