Using Teacher Feedback to Enhance Student Learning

By Konold, Kathryn E.; Miller, Susan P. et al. | Teaching Exceptional Children, July/August 2004 | Go to article overview

Using Teacher Feedback to Enhance Student Learning


Konold, Kathryn E., Miller, Susan P., Konold, Kyle B., Teaching Exceptional Children


Mr, Robertson is handing back English papers to his seventh grade students and takes the opportunity to comment on various students' performance. As he returns Steve's paper he says, "You remembered to capitalize all the proper nouns in your report and all your cities, states, and countries were spelled correctly, too. Your work reflected careful attention to detail! I'm really proud of you!"

Mr. Robertson's feedback was designed to encourage Steve to continue his high-quality attention to writing mechanics. When he returned Kay's paper, he leaned over her desk and said, "Kay, you did an excellent job of remembering to capitalize the first word in each sentence and you remembered to capitalize the names of all the characters in your story. You also remembered to capitalize the names of cities and states. Don't forget that the names of streets also need to be capitalized. Can you find an example of a street name in your paper that needs to be capitalized? [Pauses for answer.] Yes, Elm Street should be capitalized.I bet you'll remember this when you write your next story!"

This time Mr. Robertson's feedback was designed to be encouraging and corrective to help Kay improve her writing mechanics in the future. When Mr. Robertson returned Bob's paper, he said, "Bob, this was a very entertaining story. You used interesting adjectives to describe your characters. You said Pete was earnest. What does earnest mean? [Pauses for response.] Yes, that's correct; it means serious. Earnest can also be used as a noun to mean money paid as an installment, especially to confirm a contract. Nice work, Bob."

This time Mr. Robertson's feedback was designed to be encouraging and to extend Bob's knowledge about words used in his story.

Mr. Robertson's verbal feedback took only a few minutes, but had the potential to influence his students' future performance in positive ways. Teacher feedback is the consequence (written or verbal) that follows a student action and shapes future behavior. Feedback is an important aspect of every school day and plays a critical role in the teaching/learning process. The primary purposes for providing feedback are to reinforce appropriate learner behavior, let students know how they are doing, and extend learning opportunities (Miller, 2002).

Unfortunately, it is easy to become engrossed in lesson content and many other teaching-related responsibilities and subsequently forget about the importance and benefits of providing high-quality feedback. Kea (1988) found that teachers of students with learning disabilities used only 4% of their instructional time to provide feedback to their students and that the most frequent type of feedback was simple, positive feedback ("Yes, that's correct"). Kea also found that specific corrective feedback in response to student errors was minimal and that explanatory feedback for correct responses (i.e., explaining why a student's answer was correct) was nonexistent.

Although many variables contribute to effective instruction, the use of appropriate feedback consistently emerges as a powerful tool to promote student learning (Stronge, 2002). Researchers have identified a number of general characteristics that enhance the quality of teacher feedback. For example, planned, specific feedback is much more likely to influence student performance than haphazard, general feedback (Herschell, Greco, Filcheck, & McNeil, 2002). Additionally, high-quality feedback is timely, accurate, constructive, outcome-focused, encouraging, and positive (Baechle & Lian, 1990; Mastropieri & Scruggs, 1994; Silverman, 1992). Feedback should focus on what the student did correctly, as well as what needs to be done to improve future performance (Lenz, Ellis, & Scanlon, 1996). Teachers who pay attention to these general characteristics and who view feedback as an important part of the instructional process are likely to see positive outcomes from their students. …

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