How to give formative feedback

I’m talking here particularly about feedback in multiple-choice quizzes.

For correct responses, do…

  • extend the student’s understanding with a “here’s why this is right”.
  • reward them with a pat on the back.

For incorrect responses, do…

  • explain why they got it wrong.
  • challenge the student to think it through. Learning happens when they grasp the logic.
  • provide a pointer or a research direction.
  • assume they will be given another go. This motivates them to seek the answer.

Above all, don’t…

  • try to spoonfeed struggling kids with the right answer. It doesn’t work. It won’t go into long-term memory and they will just feel bad about themselves when they discover they have forgotten it again next week.


5 responses to “How to give formative feedback”

  1. I am not sure I 100% agree about not giving the right answer straight away… I know my work on here is mainly limited to vocab learning at the moment but the kids I have been working with have shown a dramatic increase in scores and an impressive retention of the correct vocabulary when the answer is given to them. I will grant though that for longer text exercises a more thinking-skills driven approach is more beneficial. However, with the pace of a yacapaca quiz how much time will they spend thinking about it?
    I have started to try and give a bit more info on the feedback, eg an extended answer or a synonym to challenge them a bit more. We’ll see how it goes…

  2. Nick, how long after the test do you measure retention? I would expect results to improve in the short term if you just give the correct answer, but for those benefits to evaporate longer-term.

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