Effective Feedback



Effective Feedback is verbal or nonverbal communication providing information as to how their behavior is affecting or influencing you. When you give feedback you are offering valuable information that will be useful to the receiver to make decisions about how to behave.


We all bring to class several things about ourselves--how we look, what we know, what we know about ourselves. We also begin to make observations of students, bringing interpretations of what we see and perceive about them. We begin to form early pictures of what students are alike, as we learn more about them and reveal more about ourselves, our perceptions of students change.



Characteristics of Effective Feedback


1.      It is specific rather than general. Saying you don't know how to organize an essay is not effective. You should say, e.g., "You need to write an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Your essay also needs a clear thesis."


2.      It is focused on behavior rather than on the person. It is important that we refer to what a student does rather than to what we think or imagine the student is. Saying: "You can't think like a lawyer" is ineffective. You could say something like: "when you analyzed this case, you did not apply the conventions of the positivist legal method of reasoning."


3.      It takes into account the needs of the receiver of the feedback. Feedback can be destructive when it serves only your own needs and fails to consider the needs of the student on the receiving end. It should be given to help, not to hurt. It is directed toward behavior which the receiver can do something about. So, for example, saying: "I can't understand you because you have a foreign accent" is not effective. You could say: "If you speak slower and louder it will be easier to understand you."



4.      It is solicited, rather than imposed. Feedback is most useful when the receiver has formulated the kind of question which the teacher can respond to.


5.      It involves sharing of information rather than giving advice. By sharing information, we leave a person free to decide in accordance with goals, needs, etc. When we give advice we tell a student what to do and to some degree take away the student's freedom to decide for him/herself.


6.      It is well-timed. In general, immediate feedback is most useful. The reception and use of feedback involves many possible emotional reactions. Excellent feedback presented at an inappropriate time may do more harm than good.


7.      It involves the amount of information the student can use rather than the amount we would like to give. Overloading on feedback reduces the student's ability to effectively use your comments. When we give more than can be used, we are more often than not satisfying some need of our own rather than helping the student.


8.      It deals with what is said or done, or how it is said or done, not why. The 'why' takes us from the observable to the inferred and involves assumptions regarding motive or intent. Telling a student what their motivations or intentions are more often than not tends to alienate the person and contributes to a climate of resentment, suspicion, and distrust; it does not contribute to learning or development. It is dangerous to assume that we know why a student says or does something, or what they really mean, or what they are really trying to accomplish. If we are uncertain of the student's motives or intent, this uncertainty itself is feedback and should be revealed.


9.      It is checked to insure clear communication. One way of doing this is to have the student try to rephrase the feedback received to see if it corresponds to what the teacher has in mind. No matter what the intent, feedback is often threatening and thus subject to considerable distortion or misinterpretation.


10.                             It allows time for the teacher to ask more questions or to get better clarification. Along with the appropriate time, make sure to give effective feedback in the appropriate condition.


Source: Holden Leadership Center, University of Oregon