Oct 23 2012
Feedback vs. Advice – That Blurry Line
This topic reminds me why I HAVE TO blog.
I think about feedback every time I check a test or a homework task. Turns out I’d better be thinking about it – according to the article I just read there are eight things that can happen when we give a student feedback and six of them are bad! (Feedback, Part of a System, by Dylan William). With that “encouraging” statement I embarked on a thorough journey through the Educational Leadership Magazine (published by ASCD) devoted to the topic of feedback.
Since there is no non-virtual framework available for me to discuss the issues that I find confusing, here I am!
Grant Wiggins warns against giving advice instead of feedback. In fact, he makes a strong case why giving advice instead of feedback is inneffective. Advice includes value judgements (Seven Keys to Effective Feedback). I don’t “get” it. I’m having trouble differentiating between the two.
I’ve always been told to phrase comments so that they would be helpful and the students would understand what they need to do to improve the quality of their work. Now that seems to be labeled as advice.Wiggins says this is not worth much if not preceeded by descriptive feedback. First the student needs information regarding the effects of the action in relation to the goal. From what I understand, instead of saying ” next time remember to include a name of a place if the question word was where“, I should say ” points were lost because the question word “where” was ignored. Is that what he means? I’m not sure. It doesn’t sound more helpful to me.
John Hattie (Know Thy Impact) says that students value feedback that helps them know where they are supposed to go. All the articles in the magazine stress that feedback won’t be effective without clarifying goals. I understand that. However, the main goal of my students at the high-school and the hearing adults I teach comes through loud and clear from every possible angle: my job as a teacher is to help the students get the highest possible grades on their final exams (reading comprehension). Isn’t giving advice on how to avoid those errors the next time the kind of information the students expect to receive?
By the way, there is also an article dealing with the value of differentiating between errors and mistakes, by Fisher and Fry (Making TIME for Feedback) . While I clearly understand the distinction, the way this distinction can be applied to comments on reading comprehension tasks is beyond me. But that I’ll leave for another time.
Any advice on how not to give advice?