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“When students know that there are no additional opportunities to succeed, they frequently take teacher feedback on their performance and stuff it into desks, back packs, and wastebaskets. Reeves (2004)

If our goal is that students do something with your comments, you have to be intentional about the WHAT and the WHEN.

“A major role for teachers in the learning process is to provide the kind of feedback to students that encourages their learning and provides signposts and directions along the way, bringing them closer to independence." (Earl, Lorna (2003) Assessment as Learning: Using Classroom Assessment to Maximise Student Learning. Thousand Oaks, CA, Corwin Press.

Feedback often includes advice, questions, paraphrasing, pointing out clarifications, praise, and/or evaluation. It may be formal or informal, summative or formative, and we are all familiar with the feedback sandwich. And although all the different kinds of feedback have their own value, if we don’t consider WHEN we give feedback, simply the act of giving feedback doesn’t necessarily improve student learning.

“It's a universal process in education—so universal that we regularly fail to appreciate its complexity. Here's how it goes: (1) A teacher looks at a piece of student work; (2) The teacher writes something on the work (sometimes a grade, sometimes a score, sometimes a comment); and (3) Later, the student looks at what the teacher has written. Of course, the idea is that what the teacher has written on the student's work improves the student's learning. But as many studies have shown, students often learn less when teachers provide feedback than they do when the teacher writes nothing (Kluger & DeNisi, 1996). The apparently simple process of looking at student work and then giving useful feedback turns out to be much more difficult than most people imagine. We could make the whole process considerably more effective by understanding one central idea: The only important thing about feedback is what students do with it.” (ASCD)

The timing of the critique is just as important. We tend to think that we are just rating students then providing feedback so they can get to the next level. If that’s the case, we still need to give them an opportunity to “get” to the next level. Let’s take the structure of FeedUP + FeedBACK + FeedFORWARD to explore WHEN your response to their learning and practice is effective!

“Feedback is a complex construct with at least three distinct components, which we call feed up, feed back, and feed forward. To fully implement a feedback system, teachers must use all three.” (educational Leadership)

FeedUP: Where am I going?

Before & During

Describe their goal for the lesson and how they are going to get there. During the launch of the learning activity, have students make connections between the learning goal/context and what they already know or what ideas they have about how they are going to learn how to do it. Explore with students why this goal is important.

FeedBACK: How am I going?


As students are engaging in the learning process, point out the ways that what they are doing is helping them reach the goal. If they are off track, prompt them to consider why and how their actions, focus, or steps are not going to progress them to the goal. Encourage students to make changes in their actions, focus, or steps right then and there!

FeedFORWARD: Where am I going next?

During & After

Invite students to inspect again why their learning is important in the context of new learning coming up next. This activity helps students to reflect upon what they actually learned and how they learned it to help them remember for future use. For those that have reached the goal - have them reflect what about and why their journey was effective and efficient to reach the learning goal. For those who haven’t yet reached the goal, point out the key ideas that they should remember for the future and examples of how they’ll use that learning to learn more.

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