Using Different Feedbacks in Formative Evaluation and Their Effects on Achievement in Iranian Elementary School Students

By Shirbagi, Naser; Kord, Bahman | Journal of Behavioural Sciences, January 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

Using Different Feedbacks in Formative Evaluation and Their Effects on Achievement in Iranian Elementary School Students


Shirbagi, Naser, Kord, Bahman, Journal of Behavioural Sciences


There are many factors that can contribute to improving the learning experiences of students. Those that are of interest here include: formative evaluation and various methods of providing feedback. Long-standing theory and research suggest the critical role that formative evaluation can play in student learning. With roots in Tyler's curriculum rationale (1949) Skinner's behaviorism and programmed instruction (1953, 1960) Glaser' s seminal work in criterion referenced instruction and testing (Glaser, 1963) Bloom's concept of Mastery Learning (Bloom, Hastings & Madaus, 1971) Ramaprasad (1983) and Sadler's (1989) works, the use of evaluation in guiding instruction has long been advocated. Classroom evaluation that supports student learning, or formative evaluation, is strongly favored in current educational literature. Formative evaluation has been championed by evaluation specialists (e.g., McTighe & O'Connor, 2005; Stiggins & Chappuis, 2005) and it is increasingly endorsed by professional organizations (e.g., Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation, 2003; Miller, 2005).

According to Scriven (1991) formative evaluation at its most basic, is an assessment of efforts prior to their completion for the purpose of improving the efforts. It is a technique that has become well developed in the education and training evaluation literature. Several recent definitions detail the characteristics and elements of formative evaluation (Assessment Reform Group, 2002; Cowie & Bell, 1999, Center for Educational Research & Evaluation, 2005; Crooks, 2001; Leahy, Lyon, Thompson & Wiliam, 2005; Shepard, 2005; Torrance & Pryor, 2001). In synthesizing these, formative evaluation is described as a composite practice, involving: a) clearly communicated learning goals and evaluative criteria, b) varied approaches to elicit information about learning, including questioning and observation, c) balanced and descriptive feedback in varied forms, d) the adjustment of teaching and learning as a result of the evaluation, and e) the active involvement of students. The element of feedback to students is central to the concept. There is considerable focus on giving feedback to students. Various methods of feedback are discussed, such as comment-only marking by teachers (Wiliam, Lee, Harrison & Black, 2004) oral feedback offered informally and responsively during classroom activities (Bell & Cowie, 2001) written and computer generated feedback that is tailored to specific errors (Thissen-Roe, Hunt, & Minstrell, 2004). While these studies do not give indication of the relative merits of these different methods of feedback, positive consequences are generally seen.

Feedback is described as an effective means of scaffolding learning (Hodgen & Marshall, 2006), and encouraging greater student autonomy (Kirkwood, 2000). However, feedback is rarely considered in isolation from other elements of formative evaluation, and only one study attributes increased student achievement specifically to feedback. Hickey and Zuicker (2005) encouraged greater use of feedback by students and pointed out that "the improved learning outcomes over time appear to be mostly due to continued enhancement of participation in the feedback conversations" (p.298). Improving length and quality of the feedback and the successful outcome of the teaching can, therefore, be associated with the teachers' pedagogical skill. Several studies conclude that teachers need guidance in this area. For example, Yung (2001) argues that teachers in Hong Kong should be provided with professional development on the use of feedback to motivate students and support learning. Stokking, Van der Schaff, Jaspers, and Erkens (2004) in their survey of evaluation practices in the Netherlands, noted a wide range in the type, form, and quality of feedback, and they observed that some of the reported practices were less than ideal, especially for learning purposes. …

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