The Power of Frequent Feedback


Happy New Year All! I hope this year brings you lots of laughter, learning and new adventures.

My big adventure for the new year is to run a half-marathon. I started running in the fall and in that short time, I’ve learned a lot about myself. One thing is that I respond really well to frequent feedback on how I’m doing. I like knowing how much further or faster I ran than the day before.

A little into my running, I downloaded an app that tracks my mileage, elevation, and time as I run. My favorite part is that is sends me emails when I’ve hit my personal best in various categories.

I love finding out that this week was my personal best in miles ran or that today I ran my fastest mile. What I also love is that when I finished my first 10K in December it didn’t matter that I was one of the last people to finish (notice in the picture how no one else is around me) because it was a new personal best for me.

This got me thinking about the type of feedback we give our students in math class. As a student, I only remember receiving feedback on summative assessments–end of unit tests or when I got my report card. Even then, it was only a number or letter grade. I never received daily or weekly or even monthly updates about whether I hit a new personal best.

How different might things be if students received feedback about their personal best in math?

The research supports the idea that frequent feedback is important for our students. One study showed that over a school year, the rate of learning in classrooms that used short cycle (within and between lessons) and medium cycle (within and between units) assessments was about double other classes.

There is something to be said for giving students frequent feedback. However, simply testing students more frequently is NOT the answer.

Formative assessment is complicated. It involves many things, including thinking carefully about:

  • How students are assessed
  • The type of feedback given
  • How students can be encouraged to take ownership of their learning
  •  What adjustments need to be made to instruction

I’ll share some ideas from the research on how to begin to think about these aspects in future posts.  In the meantime, I’m going to keep trying to reach a new personal best on my runs.

Want to know more?  Read: Wiliam, D., Lee, C., Harrison, C., & Black, P. (2004). Teachers developing assessment for learning: Impact on student achievement. Assessment in Education, 11(1), 49-65.

4 thoughts on “The Power of Frequent Feedback

  1. Anna Holmgreen

    I think you would enjoy the book, Embedded Formal Assessment by William Daniel. He discusses many of the same things.

    1. Nicora Placa Post author

      Thanks for the recommendation! It’s on my list of things to read. Unfortunately, the list keeps getting longer and longer:)

  2. Megan Schmidt

    I second the recommendation of Embeded Formative Assessment. Good stuff.
    Good luck on training for your half marathon. I ran one (and only) half marathon in Chicago in 2012. Totally something I’m glad I did (once). :)

    1. Nicora Placa Post author

      Thanks for seconding the recommendation–I’ll have to move it higher on my list. Some people tell me I will get hooked on running long races but I have a feeling it’s a one time thing for me too. I will gladly accept any training tips…