By Ayodeji Abiola
It is generally believed that students will perform poorly in any subject if they do not like the subject teacher. Although a teacher’s duty is not to be “liked”, yet it is very important that the relationship between teachers and students be good enough to support learning. One of the ways to build such relationships is through effective feedbacks from the teacher to the students.
While putting this article together , some students enrolled in Higher Educational Institutions were asked what constitutes good feedback for them. Their responses include these below:
- Student 1: “A good feedback can help me build my confidence when it discusses what I have done correctly”
- Student 2: “I like when my unique contributions are acknowledged. A professor I had last term actually wrote on my script that I had introduced a new perspective to the question which he asks students each year, this stimulated my interest further in the course”
- Student 3: “I don’t like when my graded essays just indicate the scores without notes on why I did well or poorly. I think a good feedbacks should include useful notes from my teacher.”
- Student 4: watch this video
The duty of the teacher to the learner does not end in the classroom. It extends to post-lecture activities such as exams and assignments, assessments, grading and feedbacks. Teachers must report back to the students on their performance so that they can improve. So, Feedback is defined as “information about a… person’s performance … which is used as a basis for improvement”. As per this definition, we can draw some characteristics of good classroom feedbacks. Some of these characteristics were briefly identified in the previous article on the 7 practices of highly effective teachers.
- A good feedback mentions what students have done well: Giving feedback should not be all about the student’s mistakes or defects, it should also include acknowledgement of what the student has done well. Acknowledging those things the learner did well allows the learner to reinforce those ideas and it boosts their confidence to make changes wherever necessary. It also helps assure the learner that they have learnt what was taught. Merely focusing on things the students should improve upon will not help achieve that.
- A good feedback identifies what the student should improve upon: The aim of giving feedback is for students to improve. A good feedback needs to be clear about it. For example, it is not enough to grade a student’s work and simply write “Fair” or put scores like “7/10”. The student needs to know what they should do to earn an “excellent” or a “10/10”. Therefore, this requires the teacher to clarify in writing or in an oral conversation with the learner on what they need to do or focus on to earn higher scores.
- A good feedback focuses on changeable actions: It is not effective to ask a student to change or improve on actions that they won’t be able to work on. For example, in an essay assignment, a teacher may write the following on a student’s work, “When you discussed maternal health problems and solutions, you should have cited examples of the application of these solutions in a named country. The examples will strengthen your argument on this essay”. This feedback statement focused on changeable action to improve the student rather than a statement like this: “You are a vague writer”. This statement does not give the learner an action to improve on. In fact, it can have a negative impact on future performance, plus it also directly attacks the student’s personality in an undesirable manner.
Looking at these, we will see that sound pedagogy alone is not enough for learning. A teacher who has the habit of giving students useful feedbacks will be “liked” in ways that help the students learn better. Whereas bad feedbacks especially those that directly attacks students’ personality can be very damaging to learning because it prevents a good teacher-student relationship.