Why Feedback Works

The role of feedback in learning goes far beyond that of a score denoting how much was learned. Feedback enhances long-term retention by reinforcing the learning. Feedback allows learners to "restructure their understanding/skills and build more powerful ideas and capabilities (1)."

Feedback and Post-Formative Evaluations

Feedback is an integral part of formative evaluations.  They work together to help learners:

  • Stay motivated
  • Be active in their own learning
  • Practice retrieving knowledge (which enhances long-term retention)
  • Understand the skills of self-evaluation, self-assessment, and goal setting
  • Improve meta-cognitive awareness of how they learn
  • Understand his or her strengths and weaknesses, and be better equipped to address and improve those weaknesses. 

How We Use Feedback As a Learning Tool

We integrate feedback into our post-formative evaluations. The learner is presented with the same questions that were in the formative evaluation. Doing so allows us to not only see if the learner's knowledge and confidence on the topic have improved, but provides us with another valuable teaching opportunity. It's a core part of our methodology. 

The purpose of the post-formative evaluation is to reinforce the teaching through examining answers that are all plausible—at least they appear that way to someone who does not know the topic very well. All answers have an alignment rating, from most-aligned (the best answer) to least-aligned (the worst answer). 

Feedback is provided with an explanation of how close the learner is to the best answer (how well his or her choice aligns with the teaching). When completed, the learner can review the various answers to better understand why some were better than others.

We also provide a comparison of the learner's formative evaluation and post-formative evaluation answers. And we compare his or her results with everyone else taking the lesson.  This scoring and comparison trigger the brain’s need for achievement. 

Most importantly, post-formative evaluations with feedback allow the learner to reflect and generate new insights and use their executive function to plan next steps.

1. Nicol, David; Macfarlane-Dick, Debra (2005). Rethinking Formative Assessment in HE: a theoretical model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.

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