The Power of Feedback

Academic InsightThe Power of Feedback

October 25, 2021

Grant Wiggins, a giant in education circles as co-author of Understanding by Design, underscores what many teachers come to learn when he reports in a 2012 article that “decades of education research support the idea that by teaching less and providing more feedback, we can produce greater learning.”

Indeed, a significant body of research—including an important meta-analysis from John Hattie and Helen Timperley, foremost scholars on the topic—has coalesced around some common elements for the most effective feedback. Great feedback, the research shows, is timely, specific, and carefully delivered. And while even the most skilled teachers will struggle to deliver such feedback as often as they’d like, Yup’s High Dosage Tutoring approach is specifically designed to meet all the markers for the most powerful feedback.

Great Feedback is Timely

“If you play Angry Birds, Halo, Guitar Hero, or Tetris,” argues Wiggins, “you know that the key to substantial improvement is that the feedback is both timely and ongoing.” The strategy is central to engaging gamers, and it can be equally effective when engaging young mathematicians. 

Among the many studies that have demonstrated the power of timely feedback is one from Opitz, Ferdinand, and Mecklinger (2011), who conducted an experiment focused on grammar instruction among 48 learners in Germany, finding that “the gain in performance was significantly larger for the group receiving immediate feedback as compared to the group receiving delayed feedback.” While Hattie’s and Timperley’s meta-analysis notes contexts where delays in feedback to promote processing time can be beneficial, few would argue that students benefit from waiting days or weeks for teacher feedback. 

Getting timely feedback to students can be a challenge for classroom instructors, but Yup tutors are well-positioned in a one-on-one setting to react quickly. Yup tutors are trained to “Check for Understanding” continuously and to respond to student progress by supplying more- or less-challenging practice items that precisely target the learner’s needs in the moment.

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Great Feedback is Specific

“‘Good job!’ and ‘You did that wrong’ and B+ are not feedback at all,” asserts Wiggins, because such comments leave students wondering “what specifically should I do more or less of next time.” And while this may seem obvious enough—the idea that the best feedback must be specific—studies have shown that teachers too often struggle to meet this bar. 

Research from the Netherlands conducted by Voermen, et al (2012) examined the instructional practices of 78 secondary teachers across eight different schools. Their findings were alarming. They found that feedback represented less than 20% of observed interventions, “and also found that the feedback interventions offered were mostly non-specific. About half of the teachers did not provide any specific feedback, whether positive or negative.” 

There may be a range of reasons for this, but certainly the demands of supporting many learners simultaneously can make it challenging to offer specific feedback. Yup’s High Dosage Tutoring approach addresses this challenge directly. “Precision” represents one of the three key pillars for Yup’s Teaching Framework, so Yup tutors are trained and evaluated on their ability to address wrong or imprecise answers with clear and specific feedback that will push scholars toward precision and deep understanding.

Great Feedback is Carefully Delivered

While the technical elements of strong feedback are exceedingly important, teachers also understand that learning is an emotional process. Specific and timely feedback will be of limited use if the learner is not emotionally poised to receive it. 

In an important study on this very topic, Dowden, et al (2011) note that “the scientific evidence that emotion mediates cognition–and therefore mediates students’ responses to feedback–is compelling.” Surveying undergraduates from Australia, they found that students consistently report emotional responses to instructor feedback. More significantly, they found “the quality of personal support students experience within the teaching and learning context mediates their perceptions of written feedback.” 

Yup’s Math Tutors are trained to provide exactly this type of support. In fact, the first pillar of Yup’s Teaching Framework emphasizes the extent to which students feel supported and heard. Yup recognizes that the relationship formed between a tutor and pupil is an essential ingredient for promoting learning. When students feel supported by their tutor, they’re far more likely to make the most of the feedback they get.

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Accelerate Learning with Feedback from Yup Tutors

We have discussed in prior blog posts the tremendous opportunity that schools have to accelerate student learning. Effective feedback is an essential ingredient for such acceleration, and it’s central to Yup’s Math Learning Support System. Yup tutors are perfectly-positioned and intentionally-trained to offer the timely, specific, and carefully-delivered feedback that is shown to support growth for learners. At a time when such powerful feedback might make all the difference for students, many schools are enlisting Yup tutors and seeing the benefits of their support and expertise.

Administrators: See how Yup’s services accelerate Math learning. Yup will collaborate with leadership teams to integrate High Dosage Tutoring into the school day and curriculum. 

Teachers: Check out what other educators are saying about Yup.

Contact partnerships@yup.com to learn more about bringing Yup to your school or district.

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