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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 Hattie and Timperley in their 2007 paper ‘the power of feedback’ discuss that the main purpose of feedback is to reduce discrepancies between current understanding and performance and a learning goal. They explain that some strategies students and teachers use to reduce this discrepancy may be more, or less, effective in enhancing learning than others. They state that effective feedback must be specific and clear for students and this can be achieved by answering three major questions asked by a teacher and/or by a student.

Skip to 0 minutes and 46 seconds THESE ARE: 1. Where am I going? (What are the goals?), 2. How am I doing? (What progress is being made toward the goal?), and 3. Where to next? (What are the discrepancies and therefore what activities need to be undertaken to make better progress?) If we consider these three questions whenever we are discussing learning with students and providing feedback, it will help us be specific and focus our interactions to support the student in moving forward their understanding.

A model for specific feedback

As Dr Andrea Mapplebeck introduces in the video, during feedback interactions both teachers and students will be working to seek answers to the three questions below:

"1. Where am I going? What are the goals? 2. How am I doing? What progress is being made towards these goals? 3. Where do I go next? What activities need to be undertaken in order to make better progress?" Adapted from: Hattie and Timperley (2007).

Using the three questions: ‘How to’ guides

The teacher may work with the students to generate a ‘How to Guide’ to explain how the ideas, skills or processes related to a concept can be applied to different situations, irrespective of the context.

Teachers and students can use the guides during feedback interactions to compare work to and identify actions that need to be taken. For example:

Students are working on developing a skill in science, such a drawing a graph for continuous data, and the teacher provides them with a ‘How to Guide’ of how to carry out one well (Where am I going?).

After discussing how to plan and draw the graph for a while in a group the student shows the teacher their ideas and together they compare it to the ‘How to Guide’ (How am I doing?).

The teacher with the student discusses which aspects they have achieved using the ‘How to Guide’, and together they decide what activities need to be taken to make the graph even better (Where do I go next?).

The student then draws the graph, incorporating ideas from the discussion with the teacher. They can also write a note to themselves about what they had to do differently to ensure they do this in the future.


Can you think of examples of how you are specific and:

  • Share learning goals to help your students develop an understanding about what quality learning ‘looks like’? (Where am I going?)
  • Check the progress of your students against the learning goals during the learning? (How am I doing?)

Share examples of how you support your students with this in the comments.

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This video is from the free online course:

Feedback for Learning: Implementing Formative Assessment

National STEM Learning Centre