The most typical feedback, which probably everyone knows, is a mark (or “grade”). A mark is a number that tells us how well we’ve achieved the required level that was established for a group. However, a mark is not enough for us to learn from our mistakes. To do that, we need more information. Feedback, for example in the form of commentary on an essay, isn’t so important for looking into the past – it’s more important for our future steps if we want to master something.  

We can perceive learning in the context of feedback in several steps:  

  • I’m trying to learn something, and because I’m doing it for the first time, I’m also making mistakes. 
  • I’m getting feedback for my efforts in the form of completed tasks. Feedback tells me where I am now and how to continue.  
  • Based on this feedback, I’m trying to learn and focus on a better result in my further training.  
  • Additional feedback tells me how well I’ve managed to do this.  

Getting as little feedback in the form of marks or points (so-called “summative” assessments) and as much as possible in the form of words (called “formative” assessments, as they shape us) is ideal. The first problem is that formative feedback in the form of words can be very time consuming. All teachers have to economize on time in order to take care of all students in all courses. The second problem is that the teacher is only present in a school. If we’re learning on our own or after we’ve finished our formal education, we have to find another partner for our further education.  

So what’s the solution? There are at least three methods for gaining formative feedback on your learning. First is to learn how to evaluate yourself, second is to know how to provide and accept feedback from your peers, colleagues or community, and third is to know how to gain feedback from technology either from a robot via artificial intelligence.  

  • Viewing feedback as something that takes place continually can also be a suitable approach.  
  • Via smaller-scale interactions with people or computers – for example, someone can recommend a newer book than the one we’re reading, and a computer can point us to a grammatical mistake in a text that we’ve just written. Common interactions and the use of apps, searches, dialogue and discussions can help us do this.  
  • Via larger tasks in which we’re trying to learn something more systematically, e.g. a reaction to our presentation on contemporary music from a teacher or classmate. For this, we can use something like a development portfolio.  
  • Over a longer period of time – by semester, end of year, or when transferring to another phase in life. Development or presentation portfolios can help us do this.   

Try to find a system that works for you and one that can provide feedback and reflection in all of these points. 

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