EducationHabits of Mind

Static in the Feedback Loop

By February 12, 2016 2 Comments

Feedback (n): “Information about reactions to a product, a person’s performance of a task, etc., used as a basis for improvement.”

In Visible Learning, John Hattie says that for feedback to be meaningful, it needs to not only be timely and detailed, but also to clearly point students toward future improvement or success. He calls this “where to next.”

Hattie is right about one of the things learners need in order to progress – they need to know how to do better. They need teachers to show them where they stumbled and point them in the right direction for next time.

But as any teacher or student knows, giving and getting thoughtful feedback takes real time and focus.

I feel for teachers. It can be hard to deliver meaningful suggestions in a timely manner given all of the other responsibilities on our plates. It can also be hard to give enough feedback, especially when we think a student has succeeded at, but not transcended, an assignment.

I feel for students, too.  It can be hard to wait for feedback, especially when we think we have done well but suspect that we may have missed something in our presentation or preparation. The desire for affirmation or critique only grows with time.

All of this causes static in the feedback loop. But we have always had to live with waiting for feedback while moving forward. And while feedback is important, it is also as important if not more so for students to think critically about their own work and identify the places where they themselves want to improve, regardless of input.

Waiting for someone we trust and admire to give us feedback on our work is one of the hallmarks of (school) life. And filling in the blanks while we wait is, as well.



Jessica is a doctoral candidate, education consultant, writer and editor. She is the founder of bookclique, a collaborative of English teachers and students working to promote book culture, and a co-founder of Well-Schooled, the site for educator storytelling, dedicated to sharing first-person educator stories. All Rights Reserved - What I Learned Today in School.


  • rhoda flaxman says:

    I love the phrase, “static in the feedback loop.” That’s just what it is. Instead of naming the product ( “Your argument is unclear.”), teachers should explain the process by which a problem can be fixed(” Make a topic outline to see the gaps in your logic.”). This approach is labor-intensive for teachers, but very helpful for students. In an ideal world, teachers would be given the gift of time to construct meaningful feedback!

    • says:

      Mom, that’s exactly what teachers really want most these days — time. To grade, to talk with students, to collaborate. And it’s the thing that’s hardest to carve out, with so many demands including the digital demands.