The first rule of great feedback is this: no one cares about your opinion. What I want instead, is your analysis.
It does me no good to hear you say, ‘I’d never pick that product up.’ You can add a great deal of value, though, if you say, ‘That font seems hard to read. Is there a way to do a quick test to see if a different font works better for our audience?’
The second rule? Say the right thing at the right time. While it may feel as if you’re contributing something by making comments about currently trivial details, you’re not. Instead, try to figure out what sort of feedback will have the most positive effect on the final outcome, and contribute it now.
The third rule? If you have something nice to say, please say it. Pointing out the parts of a piece of work you liked best serves several purposes. It puts you on the same side of the table as me, making it more likely that your constructive criticism will actually be implemented.
Additionally, it makes me so much more likely that I will come to you for feedback in the future. Finally, being nice to people is fun.
If I haven’t intimidated you with my other rules, here’s the last one: give me feedback, no matter what.
It doesn’t matter if I ignored your feedback last time, or if you’re afraid your analysis might be a little shaky. What matters is that you’re smart; you understand something, and your analysis (at the very least) could be the kernel of an idea that starts me down a totally different path.
4 ways to make it work for you
Explain analysis Explicitly teach your learners the difference between an evaluative comment and an analytical one. It may be helpful to show them film clips of feedback being given, eg from competitive TV shows. Encourage students to identify examples of personal opinion versus diagnostic advice. Which comments do they think are more useful?
Stay relevant Avoid focusing on insignificant detail. To help learners make sure that peer feedback is appropriate and pertinent, provide a checklist of success criteria for the task to act as a framework for the discussion. All peer discussion should centre around this checklist to ensure that feedback is helpful and relevant to the task’s objectives.
Share online Create a secure online forum for learners to share ideas, questions and homework. Ensure that the rules for providing help and feedback are stated clearly on the site. This facility for online consultation will allow the students to access peer feedback as well as encourage them to review and practise giving feedback to multiple people.
Improve accuracy Place large sheets of flipchart paper on each table, and give each group a random piece of their peers’ work, which they should place on the paper and draw around before adding careful and precise feedback annotations. Collect in the pieces of work, give them to their authors, and see if they can work out which sheet of annotations fits theirs.
This page has been adapted from Best of the Best: Feedback (Crown House), curated by Isabella Wallace and Leah Kirkman, and featuring some of the most influential voices in education.
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