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This content is taken from the National STEM Learning Centre's online course, Feedback for Learning: Implementing Formative Assessment. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds Feedback is a term used regularly and it has become accepted by teachers and school leaders that feedback is a fundamental aspect of the teaching and learning process. There are many claims that feedback can have positive gains on students’ learning. This though, is not always the case, with both positive and negative gains associated with feedback being reported. It becomes apparent to anyone who studies it that feedback is complex both conceptually and practically. Even within the confines of lessons in which interactions are occurring all the time, there are different interpretations of the meaning of the word ‘feedback’, along with how it should be used to help learners.

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 seconds This results in translation issues, which in turn lead to confusion and a lack of clarity. Take a moment now to note your understanding of what feedback is.

How would you define feedback?

It has been mentioned that ‘feedback’ is a term that has translation issues, meaning it can be understood and interpreted by different people in different ways. This makes it difficult for us to communicate about the idea together if we do not have clarity about what it means and how it can be best used to improve learning.

For example, ‘electricity’ is a term used regularly in conversations to cover a multitude of different meanings. Nonetheless, those with a conceptual understanding of the subject know that electricity, although an often-used term, has actually no meaning at all, and is used as a loose idiom to encompass a wide variety of different ideas; for example people use it when they are discussing electrical charge, electrical current, potential difference, etc.

Over the rest of this week we will clarify:

  • What feedback is
  • What feedback is not
  • Why feedback is important


Take the time now to write down for yourself a definition of what feedback means to you, and why you feel it is important. Share your definition in the comments below and review those of others. Add any points from others you feel enhance the one you have written.

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This video is from the free online course:

Feedback for Learning: Implementing Formative Assessment

National STEM Learning Centre