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Teaching Strategies: The Right Way to Give Feedback

Janelle Cox

As teachers, one our many duties and teaching strategies is to provide feedback to our students. The purpose of feedback is to aid in the learning process and improve a student’s academic performance. Whether it’s written or verbal, this feedback can have a powerful effect on student learning. The goal is to provide appropriate feedback that will not discourage a student’s learning, but encourage it. Here are a few ideas and teaching strategies to help you give the most effective feedback to your students.

Teaching Strategies that Use the Feedback Sandwich

One of the most effective ways that teachers have found to give student feedback is to use the feedback sandwich. This is when you sandwich a positive comment with a “What the student needs to work on” comment. Your main focus should be about what the student is doing right, not what he is doing wrong. Many teachers think it’s the opposite, and feel it is their job to help “Fix” what the student isn’t doing correctly. However, the most productive way for a student to learn about themselves is to provide them with an explanation not only what they are doing well, but also what they can work on to, while always focusing on the positive aspects.

Take Individual Needs into Account

All students are not equal when it comes to their learning abilities, that’s why it’s essential to take each student’s individual needs into account. Some students are more sensitive than others, so for those students you will need to watch the way you phrase your comments. Other students may benefit from a more-aggressive approach. Take into account that your classroom has a variety of diverse learners before you sit down and come up with your student feedback.

Make Sure the Feedback is Timely

The next thing that you will want to do to ensure that you are giving feedback the right way is to make sure that it’s timely. Feedback given immediately (or very soon after) is more effective for students to comprehend, and ensures that they learn from it. If you wait too long to give feedback, then you are taking the chance that your students will not connect your feedback to what was learned at the time.

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Try to Always Use Examples

One of the most beneficial things that you can do when giving student feedback is to use examples. For instance, show the student an example of what an “A” paper looks like, then have them compare theirs to it. Or, if the student doesn’t understand the rubric, show them. By using examples, you are helping to convey your feedback in a way that is visually easier to understand.

Only Critique One Skill Per Conference

When giving student feedback, try and only focus on critiquing one skill. When you only focus on one thing at a time, it will make a far better impact on the student. For example, if you are an elementary school teacher and meet with your reading groups daily, then each day you can focus on looking deeper into one skill.

Keep Track of Student Progress

Keep a record book of each student’s progress. Jot down any questions or comments, areas of improvement, what the student does well, test scores, and so on. If you are an elementary school teacher, then make sure that you do this for each subject. It’s also wise to keep a few examples of the student’s work -- this will help to convey your feedback. When it comes time to conference with the student (or parent), then you will be ready.

Be Sure to Ask Questions

It’s essential when giving feedback that you answer a few questions for the student (or parent): “What can the student do?” “What can the student do better?” This will help the student understand what they can do to make sure they are meeting the requirements. You can also ask, “How does their work compare to others?” This will help the student see how their work is comparing to those in the class.

Providing student feedback is a learning experience for both you and the student. In the past, many teachers felt that by giving negative feedback, or just telling students what they needed to work on, would help them grow. However, effective teachers have now found that the sandwich technique, pairing both positive with the negative, can be a more useful way for students to learn.

How do you use teaching strategies to give student feedback in your classroom? Do you find the sandwich technique to be useful? Share your thoughts in the comment section below. We would love to hear your take on this topic.


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.