How might teachers provide feedback to support the cognitive, behavioural and motivational aspects of self-regulation?
“There is a large body of empirical evidence which shows that learners who are more self-regulated are more effective learners, are more persistent, resourceful, confident and higher achievers.” (Pintrich, 1995; Zimmerman and Schunk, 2001)
As cited in my book, Mark Plan Teach, the research on formative assessment and feedback can help students take control of their own learning. According to Nicol and MacFarlane-Dick (2007), their research on formative assessment and self‐regulated learning offers a model and seven principles of good feedback practice. You can watch me discuss a short summary of the research and find the 7 principles explained below.
Stage 1: Clarify what good performance is
Students can only achieve learning goals if they understand those goals, assume some ownership of them, and can assess progress (Sadler, 1989; Black & Wiliam, 1998). If students do not share (at least in part) their teacher’s conceptions of assessment goals (and criteria and standards) then the feedback information they receive is unlikely to ‘connect’ (Hounsell, 1997). One way of clarifying task requirements (goals/criteria/standards) is to provide students with written documents. However, many studies have shown that it is difficult to make assessment explicit, therefore, strategies must include verbal explanations.
Stage 2: Facilitate self-assessment
One effective way to develop self-regulation in students is to provide them with opportunities to practise regulating aspects of their own learning and to reflect on that practice. In order to build [engagement], and to develop systematically the learner’s capacity for self-regulation, teachers need to create more structured opportunities for self-monitoring and the judging of progression to goals. In developing self-assessment skills it is important to engage students in identifying standards/criteria that will apply to their work and in making judgements about how their work relates to these standards (Boud, 1986)
Stage 3: Deliver high-quality feedback information
While research shows that teachers have a central role in developing their students’ capacity for self-regulation, they are also a crucial source of external feedback. Moreover, teachers are much more effective in identifying misconceptions in students’ work than the students themselves. Further strategies include: (i) making sure that feedback is provided in relation to pre-defined criteria; (ii) providing timely feedback; (iii) providing corrective advice; (iv) limiting the amount of feedback so that it is actually used; (v) prioritising areas for improvement; (vi) providing online tests so that feedback can be accessed anytime.
Stage 4: Encourage teacher and peer dialogue
For external feedback to be effective it must be understood and internalised by the student before it can be used to make productive improvements. One way of increasing the effectiveness of external feedback is to conceptualise feedback more as dialogue rather than as information transmission. Unfortunately, with large class sizes it can be difficult for a teacher to engage in dialogue with students. Nonetheless, teachers can increase feedback dialogue even in these situations. One approach is to structure small group break-out discussions or offer ‘show me whiteboards’ or thumbs up/down.
Stage 5: Encourage positive motivation and self-esteem
Motivation and self-esteem play a very important role in learning and assessment. Frequent high stakes assessment (where marks or grades are given) has a ‘negative impact on motivation for learning that [hinders] lifelong learning’ (Harlen & Crick, 2003). Studies on motivation and self-esteem are important – they help explain why students often fail to self-regulate. In terms of teaching practice, they suggest that motivation and self-esteem are more likely to be enhanced when a curriculum has many low-stakes assessment tasks, with feedback geared to providing information about progress and achievement.
Stage 6: Provide opportunities to close the gap
Probably the hardest of all stages to achieve is for teachers to close the gap once they have identified what is required. External feedback provides an opportunity to close a gap between current performance and the performance expected. First, closing the gap is about supporting students while engaged in the act of production of a piece of work (e.g. essays, presentations). Second, it is about providing opportunities to repeat the same ‘task-performance-external feedback cycle’ by, for example, allowing resubmission. The act of production requires intrinsic feedback that students can use whilst engaged in a task.
The following are some specific strategies to help students:
- provide feedback on work in progress and increase opportunities for resubmission;
- introduce two-stage assignments where feedback on stage one helps improve stage two (Gibbs, 2004);
- teachers model the strategies they would;
- provide some ‘action points’ alongside the normal feedback;
- involve students in groups in identifying their own action points
Stage 7: Use feedback to improve teaching
Good feedback practice is not only about providing accessible and usable information that helps students improve their learning, but it is also about providing good information to teachers. In order to produce feedback that is relevant and informative and meets students’ needs, teachers themselves need good data about how students are progressing. Frequent assessment tasks, especially diagnostic tests, can help teachers generate cumulative information about students’ levels of understanding and skill so that they can adapt their teaching accordingly.
The research suggests that while students have been given more responsibility for learning in recent years there has been far greater reluctance to give them increased responsibility for assessment processes (even low stakes formative processes). Fifteen years on, this has clearly changed. There is much we can still take away from this research paper which reminds us of the importance of creating a feedback-loop in class so that students can self-regulate their decisions in and out of the class. All I have done is read the paper and quote the parts which I thought you would find most helpful. Now it is up to you…
Students (n = 128) who received verbal feedback perceived it to be better, of higher quality and more useful than students who received written feedback… no impact was found on students’ perception, self-efficacy or motivation (Hopfenbeck, 2020).