​​​Feedback improves learning

Feedback is designed to bring about an improvement in learner’s performance and achievement. Feedback can be given by the practitioner or by peers. It can be either formal or informal. It can be oral or written, it can be formative or summative, but overall it must provide the learner with specific advice on how to improve their performance.   

Feedback starts with learning intentions

The process of giving feedback begins with the practitioner and learner clarifying the learning intentions (or goals) for the activities they are undertaking and the success criteria by which they will assess the level of achievement to be demonstrated by learners. This enables the learners to measure their performance in terms of both mastery of the set task and the processes inherent in it. It also helps them to be clear about future goals.

​Elements of a good learning intention

Learning intentions explicitly state what the learner should:

  • Know
  • Understand
  • Be able to do

by the end of an activity, unit of work, or a lesson and they are expressed in language learners understand. The Learning Intention should answer the learner who asks “Why are we learning this?” 

Sharing and providing clarity on what the learner will learn is the purpose of the Learning Intention. Clearly stated skills, knowledge or understandings are focus of the learning Intentions and are written in language the students can understand. 

A Learning Intention is not what task the learner should be able to do; it is not ‘Write an essay’ but rather ‘Explain why people migrated to Australia’(AusVELS History, level 9). A learning intention is what students should learn as a result of the teaching and learning activities. The medium by which learners demonstrate their learning is the essay but it is not the goal.

Another example is from Music (AusVELS level 4) where learners may create a sound picture. The Learning Intention is to ‘understand variation in rhythmic patterns’. The medium by which learners demonstrate their learning is a sound picture. 

Learners may also set their own learning intentions.

Examples include:​

The success criteria set the performance by which achievement of the learning intentions will be measured. The success criteria are made known to the learners and for learning to be most effective the success criteria are co-constructed with the learners.

Read more about learning intentions​.

Effective feedback informs the learner about their progress towards meeting the success criteria. A useful model for feedback is presented by Hattie as ‘Feed Up, Feed Back, Feed Forward. In this model the learner considers three questions:

​Feed Up 1.​Where am I going (what are my learning intentions?)​
Feed Back​ 2.​How am I going (what does the evidence tell me?)​
Feed Forward ​3.​Where to next (what learning activities should I do to make better progress?)​

Read more about the Feedback model.

Feedback is timely

Feedback needs to be timely. It needs to be given while there is still time for the learners to act on it and to monitor and adjust their own learning. 

It can be ‘in-the-moment' in the case of classroom dialogue and discussion. The practitioner will receive feedback from the way learners answer questions and the questions asked by them. In order to effectively gather evidence from questioning about who does and who does not understand it may be necessary to vary the way questions are asked in the classroom to ensure all learners are able to participate and provide evidence of their level of understanding. This evidence should indicate whether it is necessary to reteach, provide more varied discussion and practice, use peer teaching or move the learners forward.

​Feedback is clear and focuses on improvement strategies

Feedback on learning tasks also needs to be regular and provided as soon as possible after completion. Written, descriptive comments need to be in language that is accessible to the learners and should refer back to the preliminary discussion of learning goals and success criteria. Effective feedback provides specific guidance on how to improve learning outcomes and it enables the learner to think about the learning involved in the task and not just the activity of completing the task. 

​View tips for giving effective feedback.

​Feedback encourages reflection

The amount of feedback needs to be limited to what learners can reasonably accept. Effective feedback does not merely correct learner’s errors but actively requires them to reconsider their work and think about why, for example, spelling and punctuation may be incorrect, where a mistake has been made in mathematical workings or an ide​a or situation has been misunderstood.

​Errors measure misunderstandings

It is recognised that making errors is a fundamental point in improving learning. Feedback on where the misunderstandings and misconceptions are occurring assists learners to move to greater understanding and success, to become more self-directed and to believe in their ability to complete tasks and reach goals.

​Feedback is more than a grade

Feedback on formal tasks that just includes marks or grades or comments that discuss level of performance and suggest that the learning journey is finished should be avoided. This can prevent the learner from fully considering and acting on the feedback. Multiple forms of feedback, such as comments, questions, and discussion provided frequently during learning encourage engagement and motivation to succeed.