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Strategies for Providing Positive Constructive Feedback to Students

by Belinda Howard
12 May 2020

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Every teacher’s goal is create a classroom full of young people that love to learn. When we create resilient individuals that can challenge themselves and feel safe making mistakes we have achieved that goal. Positive feedback can be used to support our students when they make a mistake is one of the best ways to build this resilience and have them learn from their mistakes.

When providing feedback if it not done in a safe and supportive manner it can do more harm than good. Ripping up papers, using blunt phrases and asking the young person to ‘work out where they went wrong’ can damage the confidence of a student and stop them from trying in the future.

As you create a culture that uses positive constructive feedback students learn how to take it and use it to improve their educational outcomes. Here are 8 strategies for the delivery of positive constructive feedback.

  • Give feedback 1:1. This will encourage the student to be active in the conversation – giving them confidence in their learning. 
  • When critiquing student work focus on one ability at a time. For example – you could check on paragraph structure one day and then spelling the next. This breaks down feedback into manageable chunks. 
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    Be problem-focussed. When giving young people feedback the ‘why’ is always important. They need to understand why what they did is incorrect and how not to make the mistake again. To do this take the time to have the student explain how they got to their answer. This can help you understand their process and find where they made the error. This way you can give specific feedback about how to fix their process. 
  • Feedback should never be about the individual – always about the situation. Before giving feedback what is the outcome you want the young person to achieve. You can then work out what the focus of the discussion will be so you can focus on fixing the error. You can use language like “You have done a great job with this! Can I give you a suggestion to…” or you can encourage them to remember previous lessons “Do you remember last week when we worked on…. How could this knowledge help here?” 
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    Remember the feedback sandwich – compliment, correct, compliment. Praise is so important to reassure the student that they are on the right track and just need to make a small change – not change everything. 
  • Be informal but direct. Don’t fluff about in your response. Get going with the feedback sandwich and ensure that you are clear with what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong.  
  • Make sure your tone and manner match the context. You should not be angry or show disappointment but it should not be a time for jokes either. Be sincere and let your emotions show that you appreciate the effort they have put in but that there are changes to be made. 
  • Teach your students how to give each other feedback. Peer feedback is so important and Mighty Minds uses peer feedback in the majority of our programs. It allows young people to know what it is like on both ends of feedback.


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