Adding Formative Assessment with Five Feedback Types

Formative feedback works. It serves as a learning mirror, giving us a sense of how we are progressing toward one or more goals.  If you look at most lesson plans, it is possible to improve them by simply exploring ways to add more formative feedback.  If you find it difficult to add more feedback, that may be a sign that there are more fundamental flaws in the lesson, like no clear goal or direction.  However, granted that you have those in place, adding feedback (especially the informal, ungraded kind) often helps improve a learning experience.  One simple way to add it is to think about a mix of the following five feedback sources.

Instructor Feedback – This is the one that we usually think about.  It can be as simple as the teacher providing verbal or written direction to a learner. Of course, it can also become more complex.  The teacher might use checklists, rubrics, or even audio/video recorded feedback as a student progresses on a project.

Peer Feedback – Learners can help learners, using the same types of feedback listed for the instructor.  Of course, some learners may not have much knowledge or ability in the subject yet, so that is where it is sometimes helpful to give learners a guide on how to give good feedback, perhaps even using a rubric or checklist of some sort.

Self Feedback – This is the goal, for learners to be able to check their own progress and make the necessary adjustments.  Again, some guides or structure may be helpful in certain cases, but as student confidence and competence increases, less direction is needed.

Computer-generated Feedback – This could be something as simple as a self-paced tutorial (even just an uploaded PowerPoint with a question on one slide and answers on the next). It could also be the use of some sort of practice quiz that gives learners a sense of whether they understand basic concepts or vocabulary.  Remember that this is formative, so it need not have a formal grade or mark associated with it.  The important part is that it helps the individual learners (and the teacher) get helpful feedback on how they are doing. There are also any number of new and emerging technologies that offer different types of automated or computer-generated feedback. Consider, for example, the popularity of something like the Fitbit.

Mentor and Outside Advisor Feedback – In this instance, I use mentor to mean people outside of the classroom.  It could be an expert in the field, or it might be a family member or colleague who is willing to review your work and give you some helpful tips or feedback.  This also has a way of adding some authenticity to the experience.

There are likely other categories as well, but these five provide a helpful start as one thinks about adding new aspects of formative assessment to a learning experience.

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About Bernard Bull

Dr. Bernard Bull is the author of Missional Moonshots, Assistant Vice President of Academics, Associate Professor of education, and a frequent keynote speaker and consultant on topics related to educational innovation and entrepreneurship, futures in education, and the intersection of education and digital culture. Opinions expressed here do not reflect those of his primary employer(s).