Every day as teachers, we tell our students what they are doing well and what they need to improve. It’s also extremely important for parents to read and listen to this advice, to know where their child is at in school subjects, to make sure they are supported where needed and to offer encouragement. Most people are used to the word ‘feedback’, but not many have heard of the word ‘feedforward’. I first heard it when I was teaching overseas, and I thought ‘Wow!! Why haven’t we been doing this in schools!’
1. Feedback –
Feedback is usually defined as giving information about a student’s performance of a task. In schools, students receive a mark, a percentage or a grade, which sometimes, but not always, comes with a written or verbal comment from the teacher. One of the main problems is that feedback is looking back and grading the student’s performance that is already over. Therefore, it may be confusing or discouraging because the assessment has been done and the student feels it’s too late. This can also create anxiety when the student faces the next assessment or task, as they may not have been given the chance to go back and see their errors or mistakes, and their feeling of uncertainty remains.
2. Feedforward –
Feedforward is centred on the now and the future. Instead of giving and receiving information at the end of a student’s performance of a task, it offers advice and encouragement during the task. It allows the student to think about each thing pointed out by the teacher, gives him/her the opportunity to ask questions and gets the student to think about how to improve his/her task before the end.
Unlike the overwhelming ‘dump’ of feedback and measured information given all at once, feedforward can be an ongoing process, which happens more often and can therefore focus on a few things at a time. This means the students won’t feel overwhelmed, but more confident and positive to move forward step by step, make changes and improve the task before it is done or handed in.
So, just to recap. While feedback focuses on a student’s past performance, feed forward looks at current tasks and ahead to subsequent assessments to offer constructive guidance on how to do them better. Ideally, a combination of both feedback and feed forward should help ensure that assessment has a developmental impact on learning (JISC, 2014). It ultimately puts the power back in the student’s hands to improve and learn while doing assessments, giving them confidence to tackle the next task in a better way.