Does Your Feedback Feed Forward?

I was a high school math teacher for six years before working as an administrator for the past 11 years.  While I don’t know what the future holds for me, I have always wished to go, at some point, back to the classroom for a “do-over”.  Probably like most of us, we wish we could go back to our first years in the classroom and do them over again based on what we know now.  Although there are many things I have learned over the years in educational practices and strategies that get me excited, one of them is having a better understanding of the impact and need for formative feedback.

Through John Hattie’s research, he stated that “the most powerful single modification that enhances prescription for improving education must be ‘dollops of feedback'”.  It makes sense he would say that based on the 8,000 research findings covered on the issue of formative feedback.  For my math colleagues, Formative Feedback has an Effective Size of 0.79 – well within the “Zone of Desired Effects” in targeting student achievement.


While the notion of formative feedback has been around for a few years now, the new buzz about Design Thinking has also renewed this interest for me.  Within IDEO’s model for Design Thinking, the premise for developing products is on massive prototyping in constant iteration to obtain feedback for improvement.  This impacted my learning, as I usually instructed too much without feedback structures to inform me or the students on areas of needs and strength.  In order to create a product, or truly understand a concept, the implementation of feedback cycles is crucial – for everyone!  Ted Wujec shared the need for this type of Design Thinking in a Ted Talk called Build a Tower, Build a Team.

When I reflect on my personal teaching, I now understand the need to overtly use and teach a process for students to provide feedback.  Just by having students partner-up and work together or critique another’s work, does not mean they know how to provide effective feedback.  They need to be overtly taught how to provide it.  I have found the RISE method to be a great tool to help teachers and students to see the levels in feedback.


The RISE method is a great tool in providing formative feedback.  The method has become my guide in providing feedback in working with school administrators and staff members in coaching and providing feedback.  Districts or schools which adopt a framework for consistent practices in providing overt formative feedback have the potential for powerful opportunities for students to reflect, inquire, suggest, and elevate conversations and work to better understand the concept or skill.  By creating large posters on classroom walls, teachers can model its use in daily activities as well as provide focus areas for students to work in pairs – for example, “read your classmate’s second draft and provide one Inquiry and 1 Elevate statement”.

Even digital tools can provide means to provide the feedback without having to be face-to-face.  Voxer has become my “go-to” application to provide voice connectivity.  Groups do not have to be “logged in” at the same time, so voice messages can be left.  Kaizena is also a great, free tool that works with googledocs to provide audio feedback.

Here are a few tips I learned to remind all of us about true formative feedback:

  • Feedback must be timely – less than a week.  I know this will cause a lot of frustration or questions with teachers with multiple classrooms and research papers.  Please email me your situation, and I can provide some ideas to get a quicker turn-around time to provide effective feedback to students.
  • Feedback must be relevant to each particular student.  Giving generic feedback to the whole class wanting students, even seniors, to interpret what applies to them or not, does not provide effective feedback.
  • Feedback must be action-oriented.  After the receive the feedback, they should know their next steps – not be more confused.
  • Feedback is not “Good job” or “Way to go”.  That’s praise.  It’s not a bad thing to give students, but don’t confuse it with providing feedback.

I’m always interested in gathering more ideas, insights, and strategies to build my understanding as well as toolbox in this area, so please feel free to leave comments!

One comment

  1. Neil, this post is spot on. I have never heard of the RISE model of giving feedback. While those of us who have learned to give feedback understand and give feedback like what is in the model, the RISE model seems to be an effective way to TEACH others how to give feedback (especially students). You’re right… putting students in groups and telling them to give feedback to each other doesn’t mean that they will automatically know how. Great tool and post! TY for sharing!

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