The importance of understanding feedback

Last year I completed my first book, 'Staying Connected - Guiding and Supporting Children on Their Learning Journey'. Included in the book is a chapter on the importance of feedback and how it impacts learning. One thing I have learned being a parent of children attending school is that I had never been taught how to provide appropriate and worthwhile feedback to my children when it came to checking or simply reading through their homework. I had often felt unsure of what sort of feedback to provide, whether or not I should be providing feedback and what impact my feedback had on them and their learning.

When we give and receive feedback, as individuals we have a choice in how we do both. Sometimes our children can take our feedback as criticism and feedback can often be either irrelevant or unnecessary. I have found that if I am unaware of what their teacher is looking for or what the purpose of the work is,

I was unable to provide appropriate feedback, other than praising my child for completing the work.

My input was purely as a supportive guide and nothing more.

Whilst trying to be engaged with their learning, and thinking that providing feedback is one way to do this, my first instinct was to use a corrective method of feedback. This is how I had been programmed in my own education, that you are either right or wrong and things need to be corrected. I would look for spelling errors and make sure my children had spelled words correctly or had structured a sentence the right way. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, I realised that I wasn't sure if this was part of my role or that I was unconsciously programming my children to think that everything is either right or wrong. All I was looking for were mistakes or errors rather than what the child had done well or what they had learned.

I realised that I had to change my approach due to the little knowledge I had about what they were learning at school and the ability I had in providing feedback that was relevant to them at the time. Instead I decided to take the approach of reflective feedback to encourage my child to reflect on their own learning, rather than just correcting their work.

In the 2007 Review of Educational Research: The Power of Feedback; John Hattie and Helen Timperley, University of Auckland, Hattie describes feedback as the information component that comes in the form of:

  • reinforcement
  • corrective feedback
  • diagnosis feedback
  • mastery learning

“…..providing information how and why the child understands and misunderstands, and what directions the student must take to improve.”

I realised that my child needed to reflect on their work and that I should guide them in understanding areas for improvement. The way to do this was to ask them questions, have conversations and to suggest they check their work and reflect on where they had done well or how they needed to improve.

The challenge for parents in supporting learning and providing feedback lies in the knowledge or understanding of where children are supposed to be in their learning at that time (academic expectations) and what their goals are.

If there are no set goals or information provided to parents about this, the task of providing feedback can become difficult and challenging for both parents

and children.

As John Hattie describes, for feedback to be effective “there must be a learning context to which feedback is addressed.”

When embarking on engaging parents in the learning process, the topic of feedback needs to be addressed. The information required to be provided to parents so they are able and are empowered to provide relevant and appropriate feedback surely needs to be explored.

'Staying Connected - Guiding and Supporting Children on Their Learning Journey' is a journey of discovery for teachers and parents of children beginning school or who are already experiencing education. Author, Rachel Saliba encourages parents to discover that learning happens everywhere, sharing stories of the education experience from a parent perspective. Rachel draws on her own insights into guiding and supporting children whilst staying connected with them throughout their learning journey.

The book is now available to order online at amazon.com or www.barnesandnoble.com.

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