Principles to Frame Feedback Practice

Credit: iStock.com/Andrii Yalanskyi
Credit: iStock.com/Andrii Yalanskyi
I’ve never been a big fan of lists and checklists. Their condensed statements oversimplify and sound definitive, as if that’s all there is to know. Often, they claim more than they can deliver— “best policies to prevent multitasking,” for instance. My hesitancy about them rubs against how meaningful many teachers find them. They’re attracted to their clarity, brevity, and the convenient way they present information. Lists and checklists offer knowledge in a nutshell, and like nuts, what’s on the lists supplies easy-to-consume, nutritional information.

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I’ve never been a big fan of lists and checklists. Their condensed statements oversimplify and sound definitive, as if that’s all there is to know. Often, they claim more than they can deliver— “best policies to prevent multitasking,” for instance. My hesitancy about them rubs against how meaningful many teachers find them. They’re attracted to their clarity, brevity, and the convenient way they present information. Lists and checklists offer knowledge in a nutshell, and like nuts, what’s on the lists supplies easy-to-consume, nutritional information.

For Those Who Teach from Maryellen Weimer

My rethinking about their role as a source of instructional knowledge was prompted by a set of “principles of good feedback practice,” defined broadly by their proposers as “anything that might strengthen students’ capacity to self-regulate their own performance” (Nicol & Macfarlane-Dick, 2010, p. 205). When I first read the principles, I thought how nicely they framed feedback practice, usefully bordering the space within which it needs to operate if the goal is development of self-assessment skills.

Here’s what good feedback practice does:

I like three features of this list. First, it’s focused on practices, framed as a set of actions that collectively advance the effectiveness of feedback directed at a specific goal. Examples of policies and practices that exemplify each principle are included in the article. Second, I like how it hangs together conceptually—built around the notion that feedback should make students less dependent on feedback. We’ve long assumed that our feedback develops students’ abilities to self-assess, but we haven’t tried to advance that goal explicitly. These principles show us how, and in the process they offer a fuller and more accurate description of feedback. Finally, it’s not a set of “best” principles but of “good” ones, leaving open the possibility of others along with refinements of these.        

Reference

Nicol, D. J., & Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2010). Formative assessment and self-regulation of learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in Higher Education, 31(2), 199–218. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075070600572090