Giving Feedback


Do you ever finish a task with your learner and say, “Great work!” before immediately moving on to the next activity?

Even though you might be praising their answer or their effort, effective feedback needs to be more specific for it to be meaningful.

Giving varied and detailed feedback is important for your student, but it doesn’t just mean correcting their mistakes. In fact, feedback doesn’t always have to come from the teacher!

This blog post will help you mix up the ways you interact with your learner and help them stay motivated in your lessons.


Why is feedback important?

The experiential learning cycle enables learning by encouraging the student to:

1) do something

2) recall what happened

3) reflect on that

4) draw conclusions

5) use those conclusions to inform future practical experience.

Without any feedback, the learner cannot be expected to build on their experiences and improve their language skills.

Diagram courtesy of Institute for Experiential Learning

Is feedback always necessary?

Yes! In order to build a positive learning environment, clear and positive feedback is vital to help the student reflect on their efforts. 

Feedback should always go beyond a test score. A red cross is not likely to motivate your learner to fully reflect on their work and strive to improve next time. 

You should view feedback as an open-communication channel between you and your learners. Inviting them to share their work, evaluate the usefulness of a task or comment on other student’s work is essential in a productive classroom.

Should feedback always be focused on using the language accurately?

No! Asking your students to reflect on the content or difficulty of the task is equally important, or you could ask them what pre-learned skills helped them to complete the activity. Reflecting on the learning experience should come before you ask the class to focus on the specific linguistic points.

It also depends on the type of activity – are you practicing fluency or accuracy? If you have asked your learners to role play buying groceries in a shop as an extension activity, you don’t want to pull them up on every language mistake they make. Instead, let them build their confidence by allowing them to practice.

A teacher who uses feedback effectively in their lessons will be inquisitive and ask their students questions throughout a lesson in order to better tailor the class to the learners in front of them. For example, “Which role play would be more useful for you to practice today?”

What are the different kinds of feedback?

Feedback can be given verbally or written down. This doesn’t mean give them a monologue of their errors or scribble over all their work in red pen, though.

Quality feedback can be given through discreet gestures at the right moment, or even elicited from other students in the class during a discussion.

Ways to give feedback:

  • Use gestures or non-verbal cues
  • Nod and show interest
  • Repeat a word to invite clarification
  • Ask short questions to encourage the conversation to continue
  • Correct any words that block meaning 
  • Offer the correct pronunciation if the meaning is lost
  • Gently offer a phrase that the student is looking for

Decreasing teacher-talk time

Although it might be tempting to jump in and correct every mistake that comes up during your lesson, you should resist taking over at every opportunity.

The teacher should decrease their teacher-talk time by not interfering during the task itself. Instead, they need to monitor discreetly to check that learners are on task and to listen out for good examples or common mistakes to use in a ‘delayed correction’ activity later on.  

When to give feedback

You can give feedback at any point, not just at the end of an activity. By giving your learners some space and monitoring them, you might notice a common mistake or a good example of language use.

At the end of the activity, you could invite the students to share their examples in a discussion. Then, instead of correcting them yourself, you could ask the class to peer review to praise good examples or offer better expressions. 

Following this, you can still offer your feedback but you have made the task far more interactive and student-centered by giving them a chance to recognize good examples themselves. This makes the learning more memorable and communicative.

Or perhaps your student is not motivated to complete a task. You could ask them how it could be improved: “I noticed that you are not participating in this speaking activity. Would some written key words help you?”


Does feedback always have to be immediate?

No, but usually feedback is more effective when given at the end of a task or lesson so that the students can reflect on their learning while it is still fresh in their minds.

You can give on the spot correction to students but you must be mindful of not disrupting the flow of the activity or taking away the autonomy of the learner. Some corrections can be given quickly and efficiently, but avoid a ‘mini lesson’ to explain your point.

If you are setting a writing task, for example, you might ask the students to peer check each other’s drafts or mark their own against a set rubric. You might then annotate some quick notes, before setting them the task of redrafting their work which you will mark after the lesson.

How can I give effective feedback?

The best type of feedback is clear, honest and given at the right moment. 

A teacher who uses feedback effectively in their lessons will be inquisitive and ask their students questions throughout a session, relating to both the language points and the content of the lesson.

They will use this information to adapt the class to the learners in front of them. For example, they might write four sentences on the board that they overheard the students say in a previous task, then ask the class to decide which two are correct. In groups or individually, they can then ‘fix’ the two incorrect sentences. 

Remember that feedback is a useful way to engage with your students. Give them a simple questionnaire to discover which topics they are most interested in, or ask them which vocabulary words they found most challenging and design a follow-up activity to review them.

Why does my feedback take so long?

Feedback is an essential round-up but it shouldn’t be so long that the tasks are hurried or the feedback is incomplete before the bell rings.

To keep feedback efficient, remember:

  • Ask key questions that demonstrate the task has been completed, such as, “Who had the most pets?” or “Who agreed with the statement?”
  • You don’t need to elicit answers from every learner in the class. For example, ask one person from each group to contribute or ask one student to share and quickly take a poll of hands from the rest to see if they agree.
  • If the learners are all giving the right answers, briefly confirm it then move on. 
  • Avoid any contentious discussion answers that need more time to unpack. You can always return to these in another class.
  • Try to avoid allowing one or two learners to dominate the discussion as the rest will switch off or become disruptive.
  • Allow peer review in advance or give out answer guides to encourage self-marking so that the group feedback time can be better spent focusing on a few points in detail together.
  • Don’t be tempted to give lengthy explanations if a common error is tripping up the class. You can design a better task for the next lesson.
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