Six Principles for Feedback Practices

The theoretical and empirical literature on feedback has identified several guiding principles for useful feedback practices. This section discusses six of these principles (see Figure 6.1) and how they relate to Carless and Boud’s (2018) feedback literacy framework. They will then be illustrated with the feedback materials and activities presented in the next section.

Six principles for feedback practices

Figure 6.1 Six principles for feedback practices.

I Specific

Feedback is generally more useful when it points to specific aspects of performance (either positive or negative) for the learners’ attention. For instance, a feedback comment that the organization of a student’s essay is weak could benefit from offering specific examples, identifying where a topic sentence is lacking, or where the transition from one idea to another is abrupt. Similarly, an L2 writing or speaking assessment task that uses a rating scale could complement the score and rating descriptors with additional feedback specific to the individual learner’s performance, in order to maximize the assessment’s LOA potential. Feedback that is specific can facilitate the learner to understand the feedback and to take action (cf. appreciating feedback and taking action in Carless and Boud’s 2018 framework for developing feedback literacy). Kim and Kim’s (2017) study in a Korean postgraduate context found that students particularly appreciated the specificity of the teacher feedback on their reading-to- write task - information about what improvements are needed and in what positions in the text. In contrast, unclear and unspecific feedback has been found to be often associated with students’ dissatisfaction with feedback (Henderson et al., 2019; Steen-Utheim &c Hopfenbeck, 2019).

90 Daniel M. К. Lam II Forward-Looking

If feedback is meant for promoting learners’ actions to close the gap between current and desired performance, it needs to be forward-looking. This is well captured in the notion of feeding forward (Carless, 2007), and in the definitions of feedback cited above. Wiliam (2010) argues that feedback is more useful when delivered prospectively (pointing to future performance) rather than retrospectively (only reviewing current performance and focusing on justifying the grade (see Winstone & Boud,

2020). This view is implicit among some learners in Steen-Utheim and Hopfenbeck (2019), where their negative perceptions towards teachers’ feedback on their writing assignments were associated with the limited information on how to improve their work. Including forward-looking elements in feedback may, therefore, have a role to play in helping learners appreciate feedback and manage effect in the feedback process. This principle carries implications for how feedback is to be phrased. One approach, as suggested in Boyd et al. (2019), is “medals and missions” - identifying an aspect where the learner has done well, and one aspect that needs improving or a task to be achieved in future performances.

III Appropriate Level

Feedback needs to provide the right level of support as appropriate to the specific learner(s) and their stage of development, for example, choosing among the feedback actions of supplying the correct form for a lexical or grammatical error, scaffolding to identify the mistake or the correct answer, or prompting learners’ own reflections (Boyd et al., 2019). Feedback should also be delivered in a manner and level of detail appropriate for the learners (Flattie & Timperley, 2007), since a prerequisite for learners to act on the feedback is that they understand it (Price et al., 2010; Sadler, 2010). Feedback with the right level of detail and providing an appropriate level of support therefore facilitates learners’ appreciation of feedback and taking action in Carless and Boud’s (2018) framework.

IV Relate to Success Criteria

Feedback is more useful when it raises the learner’s awareness and fosters their understanding of success criteria (Carless & Boud, 2018). Indeed, within the learning dimension of LOA, Turner and Purpura (2016) argue that a core purpose of feedback is to allow learners to compare their current performance with the expected criteria for success. In a study of how students engage with teachers’ oral and written feedback, Steen- Utheim and Flopfenbeck (2019) found that clarifying success criteria helped promote students’ self-regulation in the form of reflecting on their future performances against the criteria. This principle relates to the element of making judgments in the feedback literacy framework, which, in turn, has implications for bow to relay success/assessment criteria to learners (see section: Designing Feedback Materials and Activities for IC: An Illustration), as they can often be too “dense and abstract” for the learners (Carless &t Boud, 2018, p. 1317). There are also implications for being selective in the areas to give feedback on such that the feedback is not overwhelming in quantity (Boyd et al., 2019).

V Engage the Learner in a Proactive Role

The literature reviewed above has highlighted the critical role of learner engagement in feedback effectiveness, and has suggested ways of engaging the learner to more actively make sense of the information given (deeper processing) and take more responsibility in learning (greater ownership). This is the essence of Carless and Boud’s notion of feedback literacy and holds together all four elements of the framework. Second language acquisition (SLA) studies on corrective feedback have provided empirical evidence that feedback which prompts self-corrections by learners is more effective than feedback which supplies the correct forms (Gebril & Brown, 2020). This is in line with learners’ own perceptions in Xiao’s (2017) study on teachers’ follow-up actions on grammar and vocabulary tests in a high school context. Similarly, in a postgraduate academic writing context, Kim and Kim (2017) concluded that more useful feedback involves engaging learners’ own efforts to improve rather than requiring superficial engagement, such as correcting the errors the teacher has pointed out.

V Engage the Learner in a Proactive Role

Engaging learners to take a proactive role is part of a greater effort in promoting learners’ self-regulated learning, which is at the heart of LOA (Green, 2017; Turner & Purpura, 2016). According to Andrade (2010), self-regulated learning means that the learners “monitor, regulate, and control their cognition, motivation, and behavior in order to reach their goals” (p. 91). Feedback practices that cultivate self-regulated learning would encourage learners’ deeper processing of information or selfreflection rather than having answers or revisions handed out to them or imposed on them. To this end, Boyd et al. (2019) suggest offering strategies rather than solutions to learners, for example, identifying the number of subject-verb agreement errors in a paragraph rather than correcting all instances of the errors for the learner. Closely relevant to this is the emphasis on developing the ability to make sound judgments of their own or others’ work or performance (cf. making judgments in

Carless and Boud’s 2018 feedback literacy framework, as this would be an enabling capacity for self-regulated learning).

 
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