Feedback that Matters

Making Math Count in WHPS

Giving feedback that promotes student learning

During my education I received corrected papers with the number missed marked in red at the top of the page. I usually felt a moment of pride as I had 100% or only 1 or 2 wrong answers, but sometimes I felt disappointed that I had missed several or had a low score. These papers went into my book bag. I might show a paper to my parents, but for the most part they went into a notebook for the semester or year and to the trash at the end of the year. I have no recollection of pulling out these graded papers and using them in any way to further my learning. What a missed opportunity for learning!


Today we will continue our series on essential components to effective math instruction. Research confirms that feedback for learning can transform students' learning and enhance and improve student achievement.

Coach's Top Ten for Effective Feedback

  1. Be specific. Provide learners with specific information about what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong. Specific feedback in math can help students connect ideas to bigger concepts and understanding.
  2. Be timely. Feedback may be on-the-spot response to student work. You may look at exit tickets and respond by the next day. Consider the work you are giving and how long will it take for you to look at it and give feedback to your students. If it will take a week or two to give feedback, the feedback is not likely to impact learning. If the goal of feedback is to move student learning forward, it must be timely.
  3. Concentrate on one ability. When feedback is targeted to one skill, it focuses your feedback and it focuses the student on that skill. This will impact learning and performance on that skill. For example, if you are giving feedback on problem solving, focusing on the use of operations to create an equation is specific and can inform instruction and build understanding of operations with your students.
  4. Connect feedback to learning targets. This helps students know where they stand in their understanding and learning goals. Students want to know where they stand in regard to their work. This feedback may show a student more time and effort needs to be given to the work or it may encourage a student that has worked hard that the efforts are worth it.
  5. Confer. Hosting a one-to-one conference allows you to give specific feedback. It also allows for discussion, questions, and give and take during the feedback. For more information on conferring in math. Go to www.whps. org, select Faculty/Staff and in the left column select Math Coach Resources and type "conferring" in key words.
  6. Use post it notes. Post its are a great way to give quick, in the moment feedback in writing.
  7. Use a notebook to keep track of progress. Have students save work with feedback in a notebook. Periodically, give students time to review the work collectively to reflect on their growth and progress. Students may notice trends, like, "I understand how to problem solve, but I make subtraction errors." The understanding of trends can help students take ownership over their learning and provide vital information to plan for targeted instruction.
  8. I noticed... This is an opportunity to connect important thinking, behaviors, or actions to learning. For example, you might say, "I noticed when you draw a picture to understand a story, you are able to write the equation and solve the problem."
  9. Coach students to critique their own work. This may done through guided reflection on an assignment or a rubric in advance of completing the assignment. This lets students know up front what the learning and performance expectations are so they can rise to meet the challenge. Rubrics are not just for projects, but are great for problem solving tasks and other work.
  10. Educate students to give peer-to-peer feedback. Students need direct instruction on giving feedback to one another including guided practice in providing constructive feedback that is positive and helpful. This can be a powerful component to giving frequent and actionable feedback. Additionally, peer-to-peer feedback promotes Math Practice Standard #3, construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning others.


A powerful way you can promote using feedback for improvement is to model asking for and using feedback. At the end of a lesson, ask for feedback from students on your teaching and their understanding. For example, at the end of a lesson you might ask, "What is something that I did to day to help you understand equivalent fractions?" Explicitly tell students how you will use this feedback to improve your work and connect the process to how they can use feedback to improve their understanding and work. This sends the message that you value feedback and use it to continuously grow and improve.
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