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Feedback is a learner’s primary mechanism for charting progress. Feedback is also a central element of formative assessment (1). Feedback in education involves four elements:

  1. Data on the actual level of a measurable attribute.
  2. Data on the reference level of that attribute.
  3. A mechanism for comparing the two levels, and generating information about the gap between the two levels.
  4. A mechanism by which the information can be used to alter the gap (2).

Of course, feedback must be given carefully if an individual is to improve their performance as a result. Black and Wiliam cite research that suggests there are four broad responses to feedback:

  1. A committed individual can attempt to change his behaviour to reach an explicit, clear standard that they believe is obtainable;
  2. An individual can abandon the standard, particularly when belief in its being obtained is low (2)
  3. An individual may lower (or raise) the standard, particularly if he is supportive of it, or
  4. He may choose to deny the existence of the standard.

The job of the teacher is, therefore, to craft useful feedback to help ensure learners adapt their behaviour to improve performance outcomes. In this well-researched area, we know much about the resources available to teachers in making assessment judgments; what it means to give quality feedback; how quality feedback can be delivered; how learners can make sense of feedback; the conditions in which feedback can support learning; and the role of the learner in engaging with teacher-student or peer-topper dialogue (1). Integrating feedback with all of the methods is important. A goal of all teaching is to create learners who can give themselves feedback as they learn without others supporting them.


(1) Wilson, A. (2012). Student Engagement and the Role of Feedback in Learning. Journal of Pedagogic Development [Online], 1(2). Retrieved on Jul. 3, 2012, from http://www.beds.ac.uk/learning/support/jpd/volume-2-issue-1
(2) Black, P. & Wiliam, D. (1998). Assessment and Classroom Learning. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 5, 7-74.

Lucubrate Magazine August 2019

The photo on top: Giving feedback by andreaobzerova

The article is from the report “How to teach vocational education: A theory of vocational pedagogy” by Bill Lucas, Ellen Spencer and Guy Claxton, The City & Guilds Centre for Skills Development (December 2012)

Seventeen effective pedagogical methods in vocational education
Flowers for feedback

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