Technology And Constructive feedback


“I became a teacher not to teach, but to understand childhood.”

I say this to friends who inquire why I picked teaching as a profession.
Because It seems like yesterday that I was in middle school sharing my findings on the lifespan of empire penguins. I was good at research and writing but had problems presenting to an audience. So, that day, while I had prepared my paper meticulously, I was also dreadfully nervous. Somehow I managed to end with a quote by Joel Moore,” it is impossible to look at a penguin and feel angry,” and a sigh because the ordeal (of presenting to an audience) was over.

I received feedback from the teacher that I had anticipated, to my dismay. The teacher came out with a tirade of dos and don’ts about my confidence, body language, tone, etc. To date, I wonder whether she could be more encouraging. It does not matter now when I am grown up and can see her point of view in the strong criticism. She must have wanted to hone my skills, but I still believe the feedback could have been encouraging and more supportive.

I fumbled and stumbled through many public speeches for many years, and I ascribe by diffidence to many a similar incident that occurred during my K-12 years of school.

There is always a debate about whether one should give feedback or refrain. There is no dispute in this- feedback is very important to learning. But HOW you give feedback is more important. Giving constructive feedback is critical for educators like us because it can completely change and transform student performance.

Not only that, but positive feedback also impacts overall engagement in classroom activities.

Constructive Feedback- A Tool For Growth-

The four pillars for successful teaching are lesson plan, pedagogy, assessments, and feedback. The learning process is supposed to be like a labyrinth. Successful learning includes mistakes and creates room for growth through trial and error.

Feedback is one of the prime influencers in the learning process, the type of feedback and how a teacher gives feedback can be differentially effective or influence the teaching and learning in the classroom. Many teachers lay importance on grades over feedback. In simple terms, grades are a means to evaluate levels of proficiency. The most constructive way of giving feedback focuses on the subject area, which is highly personalized, keeping in mind the child’s inherent abilities and competencies.

Unfortunately, many students have experiences like mine. Why do teachers believe that feedback means corrective measures? Is it not what the supervisor does at “correctional facilities?” As teachers, we must instill students with confidence so that they develop a love for learning and become lifelong learners. We should make sure that we provide enough learning opportunities to students. In making them lifelong learners, constructive feedback plays a crucial role.

Constructive feedback improves learning outcomes. If teachers do not give constructive, concise feedback, then a student may have difficulty excelling in that class. And this undoubtedly has a ripple effect on every classroom activity.

What is NOT feedback? Praise is not feedback. Advice is also not feedback. Passing judgments is not feedback, nor are grade scores feedback.

So then, what exactly is feedback? To me, feedback is a response to student performance or behavior. It can be verbal, written, or gestural. The purpose of feedback in the learning process is to improve student performance. But to me, feedback goes a step further to instill the “I can do it!” attitude in the child.

When feedback is predominantly negative, studies have shown that it can negatively affect learning. I was not too fond of public speaking, and I avoided it until it was impossible to ignore. When we have to give a critical view, we must be cautious. These qualities distinguish the excellent teachers (that students remember for a lifetime) from the rest.

How To Give Constructive Feedback-

  • Feedback should be sensitive to individual needs. Students are from diverse cultures and backgrounds. Some students need persuasion to achieve higher learning goals, while others need just a gentle push or a nudge in the right direction.
  • Student feedback should be informative and enlightening in nature.
  • Providing feedback means giving students an explanation of what they are doing correctly or incorrectly and guiding them to ensure they perform better in the future. The idea is that they learn and overcome their shortcomings. The focus of the feedback should be on what the student is doing right. Keeping that “right” as the center point, the teacher can attach examples to tell the student better ways of doing the work. My colleagues and I are inspired by the ‘feedback sandwich’ where we “praise, correct, praise” the student.
  • Ask yourself four questions: what limit you can stretch the student to, what kind of assistance he is getting at home, how does his work compare with others, and how can he do better.
  • Feedback should be ongoing, timely, and consistent. The best time to give feedback is after showing proof of learning and the student’s efforts and improvement since the last feedback. I am confident the student will receive the input positively because this has been my strategy for ten years.
  • Student feedback should refer to sharpening a skill or specific knowledge. Who knows better than us that learning is a lifelong process. Hence feedback should be about individual performance and compared with his achievements. A Rubric communicates expectations from an assignment. Effective Rubrics provide students with specific learning targets and expected performance outcomes. Rubrics focus on skills and hence on result-oriented learning.
  • Feedback should always be personalized and one-to-one. It is one of the most beautiful ways of knowing your student. Feedback is a fabulous way of motivating a child to come out with his potential. Hence the teacher should make the most of it if they want their students to perform better.
  • The best way to give feedback is by communicating verbally. I love talking to my students during feedback sessions. Students get a chance to shed their inhibitions because I build my feedback around a lot of camaraderie. But you can always give written feedback if you do not like giving verbal feedback. I will still encourage you to interact with your students because you realize they are human and liable to make errors. As a teacher, you will learn to let go. I remember our English Literature professor taking us to a cafe to give us feedback on the act we were to perform out of Macbeth :).
  • Feedback is part of the gradual learning process. Hence, it will have a better learning outcome if you focus on only one skill that you want the student to perfect than a problem in its entirety. For instance, I told my student I would look at the flow of thought during one of my English workshops. Telling before also helps sometimes since it condenses the exercise of learning and giving feedback. And the results are very positive! When you involve students in their (own) feedback :)!
  • One of the best ways that work is for students to give feedback to each other- I love these sessions. Children are more mature than we think. They are phenomenally patient with their peers and even help each other during feedback sessions.
  • Pin it and post it. I convert it into a fun exercise out of my feedback sessions. So, we use a post-box in the classroom during feedback sessions. Students write each other’s feedback and post it. The postman delivers the notes to respective students, and we pin the input on the board. The activity ensures that the verbal feedback is not lost. I refer to the information when I want to show students their progress.
  • Children are great at giving feedback! Take feedback on your teaching style from your students. As teachers and educators, we have to keep reminding ourselves that learning is a lifelong process, and as teachers, we should be improving our skills also.

Supercharging Feedback With Technology-

Constructive feedback is one of the ways to ensure positive learning outcomes. Feedback is an ongoing process that calls for many adjustments, communication, and encouragement. With a specific goal of improving learning, prompt, timely feedback is an impetus in education. Feedback is more than criticism. Feedback is more than praise also.
Feedback has been made more effective by the use of technology. Apps are abundantly available in iOS and Android formats. Teachers can use these apps to maintain records and add comments for future reference. These apps are compatible with the following formats-

Video: I like taking videos of my students during recitation, elocution, and debate. Recalling videos with the class later becomes a fun exercise also :)! With videos, the student gets instant feedback, and it also becomes a means of self-assessment. There is a video section on the Chronicle Cloud app. I make videos and attach them to the app. The student gets feedback in real-time, and it also becomes a reference point for the future. Chronicle Cloud works on both the iOS and Android versions.

Audio: With technological advancement, the typical writing-the-text is slowly getting sidelined. After Siri, there has been an onslaught of dictation and audio recording features on phones and apps. With Chronicle Cloud, the teacher can record audio feedback and load the file on the app. The teacher can record audio of students’ and put it on the app. For instance, the teacher can record examples in audio format and load them on the app instead of giving students verbal feedback.

Comments: Classrooms are blended with technology these days. If teachers are using technology for teaching, then why not for feedback? Apps like Chronicle Cloud have a custom-built section where the teacher can write descriptive notes on the child. There is a section where the teacher can also add the student’s instructional needs. The advantage of writing Notes on the app is that it stays there as a record for future reference and allows the teacher to personalize the instruction. The teacher can share these notes with other teachers. Teachers are using innovative ways of giving feedback. One of my teacher friends asks her Class-12 students to write blogs, and she gives feedback in the comments section.

Screenshots: I attach images of the concept that I have discussed with the students with my comments. Chronicle Cloud supports Comments, Audio, Video, and Image formats. It is super convenient to add comments on students’ worksheets, for instance, and load them in the image section on Chronicle Cloud.

Digital platforms like Chronicle Cloud are excellent for teaching and constructive feedback. The most significant advantage of digital apps is that everything is saved on the cloud to retrieve whenever you want a reference. Use any platform you are comfortable with- digital, verbal, non-verbal, or written. Feedback is important.

A student seldom completes an assignment that shows no room for improvement. Constructive feedback builds a strong foundation for lifelong learning and prevents students from falling victim to an outcome-based approach to learning. Hence, it is the teacher’s responsibility to nurture a student and provide feedback so that the student does not leave the classroom feeling defeated.