Giving Constructive Feedback
Originally published on Jan 1 2018, updated Jan 13 2021
Constructive feedback refers to building up matter rather than breaking it down. This type of criticism makes the other person feel that you really want them to improve. For instance, teachers mostly give feedback to students so that they put in extra effort in order to improve their presentation skills or assignments. Also, constructive feedback is not always positive rather it can be focused on the areas where improvement is required.
Developmental feedback includes comments by teachers that can help the student learn more than what is taught in the regular classes. For instance, after checking assignments, the teacher can ask the student to further study a certain theory or practice a certain skill.
Feedback, in general, should always be relevant. It should ideally be customised for every single learner who is completing an activity even if it is in a group. When students are presenting in a group, first the group should be judged over the areas for general improvement then individually each member should be given feedback on their own performance.
Moreover, constructive feedback ought to be immediate and spontaneous. An immediate response is much more effective than one given later. This may be because the student will remember the reaction of the teacher where they positively or negatively comment over their work. If the feedback is late, the students might not be able to relate it directly with the action. See how the Behavioural Models relate to immediate feedback.
Feedback under any circumstances should not be biased. Negativity, anger or disappointment can be portrayed by the tone of voice, body language and facial expressions. This can be very demotivating for students of any subject, age or learner type. The comments made by the teacher should never personally attack the student. It should rather be related to the learning outcomes and assessment criteria directly. All aspects of giving feedback should be professional and within legal guidelines. If two different teachers are teaching two groups of students, they’ll have to follow the same curriculum for marking them. This is also known as standardisation.
Constructive feedback should help the student in improving the quality of work rather than being demotivated. The words used by the teacher should be supportive in order to make the student feel valued. For instance, the teacher can give feedback regarding a presentation that was presented by foreign students who are not familiar with the language of the country. The teacher should not use sentences such as ‘you need to correct your grammar’ rather the teacher should first appreciate the efforts of the students and then mention the language usage and for further assistance, the teacher can also offer the students with extra help if needed.
Sometimes, the teacher may point out mistakes in a group or in class which can make a student feel disrespected or ashamed. Thus, the teacher should make sure that he/she calls that particular student/group separately and talks to them about the problem noted during the assessment or activity. Moreover, it’s the teacher’s duty to make sure that whatever words are used during the feedback are respectful. Especially where you have to point out mistakes that are made repeatedly. This is where you must have patience in letting the students know about the mistake and the way it has to be corrected. It might be worth considering a different technique or activity or rephrasing the feedback if the error is being repeated. This would be a sign that the feedback is not being received/understood.
Apart from the factors mentioned above, you can remind yourself to give feedback linked to ‘CRIMSON ROSE’. Each letter has a meaning attached to it which is as follows:
C - Constructive - It must be positive and allow for the development
R - Relevant - It must relate to the behaviour/outcome/result under review
I - Informative - Useful for future reference and giving an insight into the performance
M - Manageable - Something the learner can control themselves
S - Specific - Give reasons for the grade/mark/criticism etc
O - Open - Always be honest - don't avoid difficult conversations
N - Non-Judgmental - Be aware of unconscious Bias
R - Recall - Learner and assessor must be able to link the feedback to performance/answer
O - Observe - Observations should be recorded to assist recall
S - Substantiate - There must be a reason for the assessment/score/mark given
E - Explain - Let students know what would have improved their submission even if it was good - how can they be better.