The role of feedback in 21st Century

How many times have we wondered as teachers if the feedback we provide in class actually affects the learners’ knowledge positively ? How many times have we felt that practice prevailed over sufficient feedback in class? How many times have we thought that specific learners take our feedback lightly?

The time has come to re-evaluate the role of feedback in the teaching process and regard it as a way to educate inside and outside the classroom. Providing feedback is as equally important as the presentation of the new input so we should show learners different ways to devote their undivided attention to feedback when class finishes so as to involve them more in the learning process.

Feedback does not always mean the provision of the right answers to learners by their teacher. Nowadays, feedback changes identity and becomes more dynamic and effective when it comes from the learners themselves to their peers or their teacher. In other words, feedback changes its form and structure and becomes a stand-alone lesson itself with the learners being the protagonists. Since learning is an ongoing process and learners need time to process and acquire new information, the suggestions below can last more than one lesson and take the form of mini lessons done outside the classroom. Here are some practical ways to achieve this:

  • Feedback for new grammar. After you have finished with some grammar practice in class, you can give each of your learners one example sentence of the new grammar taught and tell them to prepare a mini presentation where they have to justify the use of the new grammatical point. For instance, that is useful practice when you want to make sure they have actually understood all the uses of future tenses. To make it more challenging they can find new examples on their own by looking at specific genres of text online or from other English books they already have.
  • Feedback for speaking activities. As you monitor your learners doing a role-play or group work, you notice certain language mistakes they make. These can involve the wrong use of idiomatic or functional language, lack of fillers or even lack of ideas relevant to the subject discussed. You can prepare at home a screencast where you highlight the most important features with examples, mail it to them telling them they need to prepare themselves using your guidelines so that they are ready to do the same or similar speaking task in class.
  • Feedback for pronunciation. You notice certain pronunciation mistakes your learners make with specific sounds in English. You can do some pronunciation work in class and then assign your students a group of words they can work on at home and record themselves using their mobile phones or audacity. Tell them to mail you the recordings to check their performance. Provide feedback in class or if time allows record your feedback and mail it to them. This can be done individually to each of your learners or by creating a screencast including some of the key pronunciation features your learners should bear in mind.
  • Feedback as a way to share information and/or to test. You want to make sure your learners have understood the new topic discussed in class, e.g the environmental problems and their solutions. Tell your learners to look for another two environmental problems and their solutions online, mail them or text them to the rest of their classmates and then report to class on their findings. As your learners present their findings in class, you can collect their ideas and provide them in the form of a worksheet which they can edit and use for future reference.
  • Feedback for projects. You ask your learners to prepare the first draft of their project. For those who give you their draft electronically, use screencasting  to give feedback. Those who give you their draft in paper, you can record your feedback. In any case, the benefit of this practice is that they can always listen to your feedback as many times as they want feeling self-assured that they are always on the right track. What is more, it builds trust within the group as well as between the group and the teacher.






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