Feedback isn’t criticism and feedback isn’t praise. Feedback tells you specifically what you did well and what if anything would make your learning stronger or better. Good feedback encourages you to keep going even when you feel lost.
Before you learn something new you need to know specifically what you are going to learn and how you will know if you learned it. The most effective feedback is ongoing during learning or as soon as possible after instruction. For example, I am currently going to a trainer for strength training. I always thought I could just add a few reps with some weights, do a few sit ups and a few other things and I would be fine. Unfortunately, I ended up hurting myself several times(including a frozen shoulder)and finally just gave up. I am an avid walker but something told me I still needed to add strength training. I found a trainer that I really liked and she was excellent at giving feedback. I had no idea I was holding the weights wrong. I needed to back up and go slowly. Before we start something new she always demonstrates what we will do. I practice with her guiding me and when she catches me doing something wrong she will take hold of my arm for example and guide it. Then I start on my own and she watches me like a hawk to make sure I don’t hurt myself and am using the proper form and timing. Somethings have taken me a very long time to accomplish. After several months I have gotten so much stronger. This kind of coaching with effective, specific and timely feedback is what has made the difference. My trainer lets me know what I am accomplishing too. “You held plank for 30 seconds. I know you can do more. You are doing very well with the 5 pound weights. Your form is great. Lets try the 6 pound weights next time.”
As teachers we give feedback all day long. If you are a teacher and see that some of your students are stuck, check in with your feedback. Is it timely? Is it specific? Does it encourage your student to take on new challenges? For example if you are a kindergarten teacher, you need to employ specific feedback almost immediately. When I taught kindergarten, I made the mistake of giving a paper back the next day. A few of the students recognized that it was theirs but most denied it outright! If you are a high school English teacher you can wait a bit to return something to students with feedback and you may still get results. Just remember that feedback must be specific. A grade alone does not support deep learning. Neither does, “good job!” Comment about what exactly your student did well. Specific feedback on a piece of writing, would be something like, ” I like your idea. You captured my interest in the introduction with your questions and anecdote.” If you just said good job, your student may not understand that they now know how to write an introduction that captures the audience. The more specific feedback you can give while students are practicing and trying it on their own, the more likely they will be to learn the objective. The more students know what they are doing right and what still needs work, the more likely they will be to challenge themselves to keep going.
If you are the learner, and are struggling with something, think about the kind of feedback your are getting. Is it timely? Is it specific? Does it encourage you to take on more challenges or do you just want to give up in frustration.