How to provide students with feedback

I have recently prepared and given a session about feedback and it seems that there isn’t a formula to follow. However, as Ken Blanchard said: “Feedback is the breakfast of champions”.

In my opinion, it is extremely difficult to have actual learning without having feedback.

Therefore, what is the aim of feedback? After doing a lot of research, I came up with an answer: it is to bring about self-awareness and improvement. (Gower, R. Phillips, D. & Walters, S. 2005).

Thus, what techniques can be used? Do you think it depends on the level? Or does it refer to the part of the lesson you are teaching? The answer is “yes” to all of the questions:

1) Making notes in your personal notebook is crucial. Otherwise you will forget what was said and what important points you had to share with your students. I usually make notes of ‘good language’ (i.e. they are using the target language of that specific task) and of ‘language to improve’ (pronunciation, grammar structures that need revision and vocabulary). For advanced students, “language to improve” may not occur as often as you would expect, so you could probably make notes of expressions they used and ask them what else could be said instead.

2) For specific mistakes that are recurrent (i.e.: that student always says “I have 20 years” instead of “am”, or that other student who always pronounces something incorrectly) you could have slips of paper or even “post-its”. While students are having conversation tasks, the teacher makes notes on the slips of paper and gives it to that specific student. This is a way of having correction on the spot, without interrupting them. In this case, since the mistake is specific, there is no need of sharing it with the whole group afterwards.

3) Another way of providing feedback to students is “coaching”. According to Hattie (2009), it is a way to help students help themselves. The teacher guides the students first and then checks if their work is correct. This could be done either with conversation or writing tasks. Hattie also says that coaching should be done with advanced students, but I believe that if you explain the process and the procedures to your basic students, they will certainly be able to be coached and learn how to learn as well.

4) When working with writing tasks: I truly believe in the “process writing” technique. The student will be guided towards genre, topic, beginning, end, paragraphing, etc. After they write the first draft, the teacher corrects it (using the correction codes or codes that you have established beforehand with your students) and guides students once again so they are able to re-write it. A way of guiding students could be asking them questions, i.e.: “I have a car” – Teacher writes: what type of car? What colour is it? What model? etc.
As mentioned before, there is not a formula for giving feedback, as long as it is done frequently in your lessons.

  1. Hattie, J. (2009). Visible Learning: A Synthesis of 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement. Routledge.
  2. Gower, R. Phillips, D. & Walters, S. (2005).  Teaching Practice: A guide for teachers in training. Macmillan.
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Beatriz Solino de Francisco

Beatriz holds the Cambridge Train the Trainer and the DELTA Mods II and III(Teaching Exam Lessons). She has a Licentiate’s degree in English Language from PUC SP (2007). CPE level of proficiency and she has been teaching for 15 years. She is an Academic and Pedagogic Coordinator. She is currently doing a Company Management MBA at FGV.

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