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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Feedback for Effective Teaching

Feedback to facilitate




AKANKSHA, the description of the rainy day is beautiful. You have tried making a poem and the drawing also explains your idea very well. You can try using some more rhyming words. 
   Varun, I really liked the way you have recorded your observations. Your drawings are elaborate and you seem to have paid much attention to the minute details. It would be a nice idea if you try writing your observations in a list form next time. How about observing a banana leaf ? 
   Imagine yourself as a child who receives this feedback on the task given as opposed to a regular ‘good’ or ‘needs improvement’ feedback by the teacher. 
   Feedback is one of the most powerful tools that a teacher can employ to facilitate learning in a classroom. It can be used for a variety of purposes — to assess the learning outcomes, to motivate a child’s indigenous style of expression, to challenge his/her thinking and to suggest alternatives. Feedback is as important as the need for learning in a child -centered classroom. But we often tend to undermine its role. At times feedback is not provided in the right manner, which results in a loss of learning situations. 


• Making it comprehensive:

Feedback should be both on the process and the product of learning. It is important to appreciate the efforts and unique style of a child. It also needs to provide a description of the expected learning outcomes and help the child to assess his/her learning 

• The immediacy factor: 

Feedback should be given immediately after a task is finished so that it can be implemented. It is also important for feedback to be simple and hence comprehensible by the child. 

• Keeping it simple: 

Make feedback clear, specific and complete. Using words like ‘you can improve,’ ‘well-written’ should be refrained from as it creates ambiguity and bewilderment. Children get confused as to what he/she should improve or what was good 

• Involving the child: 

Effective verbal feedback entails attentive listening by the teacher and other children. In most cases it is seen that the classroom discourse remains closed with the teacher wielding power to initiate questions and also evaluate the responses as ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ Efforts should be aligned to make learning a two-way approach wherein a child initiates questions and other children offer perspectives. In such a classroom there is a shift from the conventional unidirectional flow of information. What emanates instead is an inquiry-centered approach 

• Accommodating response time: 

Also to help children probe the subject matter, it is important for a teacher to give adequate waiting time for students to respond. Often teachers ask closed questions like ‘When is Gandhi Jayanti celebrated?’ ‘What was he popularly known as?’ Hardly do we come across questions that challenge thinking, help children gather evidences or express opinions. To facilitate thinking the same theme can be dealt by asking probing questions like, ‘Do you think Gandhiji was right in breaking the salt law? How do you know about Gandhiji?’ Such questions give scope for subjective interpretations. In other words an effort should be made to break away from the tradition of asking rhetorical questions 

• Making it accrue to accomplishment: 

A teacher needs to vary the feedback according to a child’s level of accomplishment. For example, if a child who has just begun to write receives a punitive feedback telling that he or she needs to improve her spellings or check grammar use it can be de-motivating. It is important that the teacher provides constructive feedback highlighting the strengths of the written piece. A teacher should use feedback as a mechanism to enhance and not dismiss learning. Teacher’s expectations can be conveyed subtly and can be suggestive 

• Making it personal: 

Personalised feedback works wonders as compared to generic feedback. Addressing children by their names and highlighting their strengths increases the probability of desired outcomes. It motivates and empowers the child 

• Feedback should be authentic and not just praise devoid of context: 

A teacher should be cautious of using negative injunctions like: ‘Don't write in upper case, poor, untidy work, incomplete.’ Such statements are power-centric, closed and may disconnect the child with the learning process. Efforts should be made to engage emotions of the child by making feedback dialogic and non-threatening 

• Setting the tone for mutual dialogue: 

It is imperative to set an equation for mutual feedback. Thus, a child can provide constructive feedback to his/her peers. He or she should be encouraged to express views on what an educator creates. Such practices help in making the child fearless and democratic while giving feedback. It also decentralises the power dynamics in the classroom 




   Sunil Sharma


Dil Se Desi Group


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