Is 90% of my feedback wasted?

Having binged on the research findings about the process of making feedback effective I have been trying to put some of these findings into practice, always tempered by the fact that most of the research is based on H.E. whereas I work in F.E.

I am grateful to @CarlessDavid for his steady stream of tweets. He goes one step further than many tweeters by adding to the basic tweet a link to a paper or source of information. That helps keep me up-to-date but I still have to adjust any ideas or suggestions to suit the world of F.E.

In recent weeks I have wondered:

  • should feedback be written or spoken?
  • what is the optimum amount of feedback? Should the tutor limit themselves to just 2 or 3 points?
  • is it really possible to turn the feedback process into a dialogue?
  • 90% of my feedback is wasted but I don’t know which 90%
  • would group feedback be (almost) as effective as individual feedback – and much less time consuming?
  • or should all members of a group be able to share each others’ feedback?
  • should we give students choice about which mode of feedback they receive?
  • how can we ensure that feedback becomes feed forward?
  • should students self-assess at the point of submitting work?
  • what mechanisms can we use to encourage students to respond to written feedback? (I encourage entries in their reflective journal, for example)

What do you think are the 3 most important elements of an effective feedback process?



  1. Feedback can be both written and spoken but research shows that conversational feedback during the learning has the most impact. Summative feedback is worthy in a written form if focused on improvement.
    If the feedback is from the teacher to the student then it is focused ideally on one improvement and then a conversation follows where the student explores and questions the feedback to seek clarification. This clarification develops improved understanding and then the student is able to create new ways of working.
    Yes summative feedback more towards written and formative more towards a dialogue.
    Recent research is showing that feedback is fairly effective I.e. Remediation . feedback is .45 (Hattie, 2011) whereas the highest effect is 1.13 if feedback that is created by the student and spoken back to the teacher. This type of feedback is largely ignored in main stream education today and is only just beginning to be explored.
    Lots of variables when contrasting group versus individualised feedback. My view and research show that both have value and should be both used regularly. I find group feedback useful for generic points for development but clouded by individual feedback.
    Sharing teacher feedback with peers is powerful and arguably forms part of the highest effect. If students can share their individual feedback with another and teach them the development points then this can greatly improve learning.
    Mode of feedback is an interesting one. I believe written feedback should always be discussed with the he student. But how often is this not done?
    Feed forward is about proposing improvements in work and overall development in learning. Again, ensuring the student feeds back to the teacher through discussion or with peers and sets these targets optimises the effect.
    Self assessment at any stage of learning has been shown to have effect. To do this in a focused way during and post submission can only be beneficial as it is all about developmental learning.
    3 elements of effective feedback:
    1. Set goals and success criteria before the learning
    2. Feedback in whatever form has to be discussed and reflected on
    3. The student discusses with peer or teacher and gives their feedback and feed forward for their self

    Kind regards.

    • Tom, there is lots of food for thought here. I shall mull over your points and fairly soon try to set out where I have got to. I think I would like to post some specific examples of how I might give feedback to a specific group of my students. I am coming round to thinking that it is important to come up with a feedback regime that is tailored to the needs and characteristics of a group and also to the teaching style of the tutor. I am very grateful for your input (this is my feedback to you!) and I hope we can continue to engage with this fascinating topic.
      Watch this space. And enjoy the match!

  2. In January, I attended the BETT show and Prof Sugata Mitra did the keynote speech. He was comparing the original school system and how it prepared people for working life in Victorian Britain with the modern system and how it prepares people. I think he hit the nail on the head. Exams and assessments don’t prepare us for the realities of working in the 21st century international world. I always struggled with getting students to hear feedback but now I manage 30 staff, I have little problem getting them to hear feedback because it’s directly relevant to their work. I don’t know what the answer is but I think something hinges on relevance. I’ll think some more on it.

    • Hello Nicki – great to hear from you. After enjoying the Digital Practitioner unit with the OU I went slightly into digital hibernation (standby mode) but I am now waking up.
      I am trying to strike a balance between all the research findings and my own experience of what seems to work with my own trainee teachers.(if you remember, all of my teaching consists of the BTEC Award in Education and Training) so this is a good example of what Dave Martin called vicarious learning i.e.they are learning about feedback from the way that I give feedback. I certainly agree with you that it is important that they see that my feedback is relevant to their goal. They probably have 2 goals:
      1. to get their Award by meeting the assessment criteria (see Bev’s comment)
      2. to actually learn some practical skills and insights which will enable them to do their teaching job better
      Thanks for your thoughts – more always welcome!

  3. So many questions! So many good ideas too!

    Geoff Petty, the FE Guru, values Professor John Hattie’s Table of Effect Sizes. ‘Hattie has made clear that ‘feedback’ includes telling students what they have done well (positive reinforcement), and what they need to do to improve (corrective work, targets etc), but it also includes clarifying goals. This means that giving students assessment criteria for example would be included in ‘feedback’. This may seem odd, but high quality feedback is always given against explicit criteria, and so these would be included in ‘feedback’ experiments.

    As well as feedback on the task Hattie believes that students can get feedback on the processes they have used to complete the task, and on their ability to self-regulate their own learning. All these have the capacity to increase achievement. Feedback on the ‘self’ such as ‘well done you are good at this’ is not helpful. The feedback must be informative rather than evaluative.’ (

    I am a firm believer, as you know John, in the powerful nature of relevant, developmental feedback and how it can impact on both academic and practical tasks.

  4. Bev, you have got me thinking about assessment criteria. I used to put statements like “you have met assessment criteria 1 & 2 here” but moved away from that because I felt it wasn’t really helping the learners and was directed more at showing external verifiers (those awful people!!) that the criteria had been met. However, so great is your influence that in some written feedback this morning I have tried to include some reference to the assessment criteria, by pointing out that many of the questions students are asked (e.g. how do you meet your learners’ needs?) are directly related to BTEC assessment criteria. If I can get them to think along those lines, I can then ask them “Do you think you have said enough here to show that you do know how to meet your students needs?”
    I have never read Hattie so I shall make that my next task!
    One thing I am not so sure about; I asked some students the other day about my feedback (I was being influenced by reading someone’s view that you should just make 2-3 points in feedback or it gets lost in the morass of comments) and these grown adults still said it was good to read ” this is a very good response to these issues” or “this is an encouraging first assessment task”.
    Keep the ideas coming! Would you be able to pass the link to anyone else? I forget the name of your colleague who came to college with you a few years ago.

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