In a Teach Thought blog post, Justin Chando writes,
To tell a student “great job” or “this needs work” is a missed opportunity.
Hearing that you did a great job is wonderful. However, the problem with “great job” or “this needs work” is that it is not specific. There is no indication of what was done that was successful, and no information about how to replicate this success in future assignments.
In the blog post, Justin goes on to explain Grant Wiggins’ key characteristics of better feedback. Helpful feedback is:
Goal oriented: Goal referenced feedback creates a roadmap for students; it shows them how far they can go in the mastery of a subject or skill by outlining specific places for improvement or highlighting successful behaviors/techniques.
Transparent: A useful feedback system involves not only a clear goal, but transparent and tangible results related to the goal. The feedback needs to be concrete and obvious.
Actionable: Great feedback begs an obvious action/response from a student. It provides a clear course of action for the next time around or outlines a new plan for moving forward.
User-friendly: Feedback is not of much value if the student cannot understand it or is overwhelmed by it. Quality feedback should be accessible to the student, clear and concise, using familiar language from the lesson/course.
Timely: Vital feedback often comes days, weeks, or even months after. Give students timely feedback and opportunities to use it in the course while the attempt and effects are still fresh in their minds.
Ongoing: One of the best ways to give great feedback is to give it often. Ongoing formative feedback helps students identify their strengths and weaknesses and target areas that need work.
Consistent: Keeping guidance as consistent as possible allows students to hone in what needs to improve in their work and focus on making it better.
For more information on these key characteristics of better feedback including strategies to give better feedback, read Justin's Teach Thought blog post, How To Give Students Specific Feedback That Actually Helps Them Learn.
Also, check out this Wise Feedback: Using Constructive Feedback to Motivate Learners blog post from the Center for the Advancement of Teaching at Temple University.