During the past few weeks, we have looked at three of the four criteria needed from every instructional tool to promote meaningful student development – assess knowing and doing, foster accurate self-awareness, and deliver an engaging and relevant experience. Today, let’s discuss the fourth criteria, provide actionable feedback, and explore how it promotes meaningful development.
Provide Actionable Feedback
Actionable feedback, or feedback that promotes meaningful student development, allows students to reflect on their performance, guides them through shortcomings, and provides actionable next-steps and recommendations for improvement.
This type of feedback is objective, tailored to each student, and goes beyond a specific grade to focus on the actions and decisions that led to a successful or unsuccessful performance. In addition, actionable feedback also incorporates both positive and negative components to motivate and drive student engagement.
Jennifer Porter, Managing Partner of The Boda Group, speaks to importance of both aspects to the development process, “Negative feedback serves as important fuel for other changes that are needed. And recognizing progress on meaningful work — which positive feedback highlights — is one of the best drivers of engagement, motivation, and innovation.”
Unfortunately, actionable feedback requires a level of individualized attention and detail not provided by common instructional tools. Textbooks, case studies, and multiple-choice exams all provide feedback that focuses on student results. These tools ignore the reflection and actionable guidance needed to promote student development, expecting students to figure it out on their own.
In fact, data compiled from 131 studies on 12,652 participants to measure the impact of feedback on student development shows that over a third of the feedback provided to students negatively impacted student engagement and performance. Coupled with the pressure of increasing classroom sizes, professors who are fully capable of providing actionable feedback simply don’t have enough time with each student to fill in the gaps left by traditional instructional tools.
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