Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Feedback/Feedback Skills

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What are feedback skills?

“What is your problem? Don’t you listen to anything I say?” Not very encouraging or motivating is it? Think about it. What if you were the student who just finished an assignment that you had worked very hard on and this was the response that you received from your teacher? More than likely, you would not be motivated to try to do a better job or even want to do an assignment for that teacher again. We, as teachers, need to be mindful of what we say and how we say it. People of all ages need feedback on what they do and how they do it. There are different ways and types of feedback that can be given. How feedback is given has a huge impact on a student and his/her motivation to learn.

What is Feedback?[edit]

Feedback, according to, is “knowledge of the results of any behavior considered as influencing or modifying further performance.” Feedback can come from a teacher, the learner him/herself, or from parents, other adults or peers. Feedback should make reference to the quality of the work and how to improve it. If the feedback is given correctly it will let the student know what he/she needs to improve on and what he/she did correctly. There is positive and negative feedback. This article will focus on positive feedback.

Students' Needs are Different[edit]

The role of teachers has changed in the last few years. Teachers need to encourage students to want to learn and to help students develop appropriate learning techniques. The intent of a teacher should be to help the students cultivate the tools and strategies to be better able to learn and be responsible for their own learning. Teachers should strive to keep students motivated by varying feedback and giving the appropriate feedback. Students have different needs and learning styles and because of this a teacher’s first priority should be to build a relationship with each child. This is necessary so that the teacher will know how each student is motivated to learn and how he/she can give the correct feedback to help each child.

Some students are intrinsically motivated and they learn simply for the love of learning without obvious external incentives or rewards. Offering a reward sometimes suggests to an intrinsically motivated student that the activity is not worth doing the task for its own sake. A teacher needs to be careful with how he/she uses feedback with this type of student so the student will be continue to be intrinsically motivated Extrinsically motivated students are motivated to learn because of the reward one receives after doing a task.

Encouragement is Important[edit]

In years to come, a child may forget what you taught them. But will always remember how you made them feel.

—Steven Krushen

Praise is perhaps the most widely used form of adult attention in classrooms. Critics claim that statements of praise may have detrimental effects when they express the teachers’ approval or admiration, provide general commendations on the value of achievements, or set up comparisons between children. These forms of evaluative praise are thought to focus on children’s approval from others, on extrinsic rather than intrinsic rewards and on competition about achievement, rather than on personal development and the value of the activity itself. Frequent use of evaluative praise is said to work against the generally accepted educational goals of fostering positive self concept, self-reliance, and internal motivation. Research does not support the claim that traditional praise reduces internal motivation. On the contrary, a recent study revealed that verbal praise increases children’s intrinsic motivation, measured both by the time they spend on a task and their favorable attitude about the task. Instead of using evaluative praise, a teacher could use effective praise which focuses on the effort and/or specific attributes of the work completed. Encouragement should be specific, focus on improvement of process and effort, be sincere, and avoid comparisons to other students. (Slaby, pgs. 64-65). Non-verbal forms of attention include positive gestures (thumbs up, okay sign), laughing together, showing interest, winking, or clapping. If a student gets informational feedback and has a pleasant experience they will want to continue the task or behavior.

Positive feedback is important to learner morale (confidence pleasure), which itself can be a powerful determinant of the learning outcome (Draper 2005). Good feedback tells a student what was “right”, what was “wrong”, and how to right the wrongs without “wronging the rights”. The first two should always be present and the third should be used when a teacher feels it is appropriate. The teacher might want to let the student try and figure something out before giving corrective feedback (Isaacs, from Draper 2005).

Recognition invites repetition. Children crave to be noticed and recognized. Behavior that gets a teacher’s focus, attention, and energy is what will grow and flourish. When teachers notice good work and skills, students will repeat this behavior. Teachers should use language with students to help them develop positive attitudes about themselves and their potential. With positive feedback a teacher can help students achieve the following: persist at tasks even when they become challenging, learn to carry out a task to completion, feel confident and competent, and feel hopeful about themselves, their potential, and the future (Bilmes, pg. 30 and 158).

Timeliness should be considered when giving feedback. This will vary because of the student and the assignment. Immediate feedback is important, it lets the student know about their work right away and what they need to do if anything; and also it keeps them on track and motivated to continue. Sometimes feedback may need to be delayed a little to promote thought (Draper 2005).

Other Sources of Feedback[edit]

Parents and other adults affect students learning also. Discuss ways of encouragement and feedback with parents so that everyone will be on the same page. Have both parents involved if possible. “Children are more likely to be motivated to achieve if they get the same clear and positive message about school effort and expectations from both parents” (Rimm).

Peers can give each other feedback also. Teachers should instruct the students in the proper way to give feedback to avoid possible hurt feelings and so that the feedback is helpful. Feedback coming from a peer sometimes is more effective then coming from the teacher. Students should also be taught to evaluate themselves (Rimm). When a student succeeds in self-correction, it makes them feel good about themselves and motivates them to keep continue the task.


The main difference between high ability achievers and high ability underachievers is that the achievers have learned the attitudes and strategies that enable them to be successful in a school setting”.

—Joanne Rand Whitmore, 1980

Feedback is an important component of teaching. Feedback is an art acquired over time and is loosely based on intuition. We, as teachers, need to work on giving appropriate feedback. We need to be conscious of what we say and how it comes across to students. Teachers should take the time as ask students about the quality of the feedback they are receiving and if the students understand the feedback. Feedback should identify what has been done well, what needs improvement, and should give appropriate guidelines on how to make improvements. Praise and encouragement need to be appropriate. It is the quality of feedback rather than the quantity. It should be about helping students “learn” more effectively rather than just rushing through an assignment. Feedback can be as easy as saying, “you did a good job”. This can make a child feel confident and motivated. It will also make the teacher feel good because they will know that they have inspired someone. Remembering those five little words can make a difference in the life of many students.

Multiple Choice Questions[edit]

Click to reveal the answer.

You have a student who learns for the sheer pleasure of learning and can’t seem to learn enough. This student is motivated:
A. Extrinsically
B. Logically
C. Intrinsically
D. Frequently

C. Intrinsically

As a teacher you give lots of verbal praise (feedback). Does this increase or decrease intrinsic motivation?


A student does a math problem. This is his answer 2x2=6. The teacher says, “Sam that would be right if the problem was 2x3, but it is 2x2, try again”. This is using:
A. Interest
B. Negative
C. Task
D. Positive feedback

D. Positive feedback

During a review for a history test, Mrs. Butler delays her feedback for just a moment. Delaying feedback promotes:
A. Anxiety
B. Affiance
C. Thought
D. Puberty

C. Thought

The teacher steers the student towards self-correction on an assignment. This form of feedback describes which source of feedback?
A. Peer
B. Parent
C. Self
D. Teacher

C. Self

Essay Question[edit]

Click to reveal a sample response.

Imagine you are a kindergarten teacher. You notice one of your students seems to be having trouble with a rhyming game during center time. He is not interacting with his peers at the center and is obviously distressed. What do you do?

I would casually go to the center and observe all the students at that center for a few moments. I would begin interacting with all of the students and then begin working with each one individually. By doing this, I would not be singling out the student having problems. As I was working with the other students at the center I would be giving them positive feedback. When I got to the distressed student I would again offer positive feedback and begin working with him/her. I would spend more time with this student and then I would team all the students up at that one center. They could then help each other and hopefully the one student having problems would be successful. By handling it this way you are not singling out the distressed student and he/her will probably not realize why you teamed them up. You are therefore saving the student embarrassment, while being positive the whole time.

I going to school to teach kindergarten and in love with helping students do well, would observe then take action. I would then go over and talk to the entire student asking them how they were doing and if they needed any help. I would talk to every single student and then when I talked to the student who really needed help and was having trouble I would give him that extra help he needed. Then I might take him aside later when the class was going to lunch or recess or even write is parents a note telling him that I can help him with the that center. I would also like to let his parents know so maybe then can give him extra help at home. If those two options are not helping I can also refer him to a speech teacher/ reading and have them work with that particular student. A student can never have to much help when learning.