…it’s an imperative.

If you’ve paid even scant attention to any of the educational research conducted over the last 30 years, you are aware that giving students specific, timely, actionable feedback has the most significant impact on student learning of any strategy known to humankind. In fact, the average effect size for providing feedback according to Hattie and Timperley (2007) is twice the average effect size of most other educational innovations.

One thing technology is really good at is facilitating timely feedback. From Khan Academy exercises to comments on a student’s essay in Google Docs as they write, teachers can see to it that their students receive specific, timely feedback. Some feedback is better than others. Finding out whether you’re right or wrong, proficient or not, is one level of feedback, binary though it may be. However, as Marzano (2011) would suggest, “feedback that involves too many elements or is too broad has little influence.” But using technology and tools that allow for more specific, pointed feedback can be what it takes to move kids from bewilderment at their lack of achievement to knowing exactly what steps to take in order to improve.

One practical way teachers can do this is with the use of a Learning Management System (LMS), like Moodle, for assessment and retrieval practice. A Moodle (iLearn) quiz can be administered with questions in which specific feedback for each answer and distractor can be provided by the teacher beforehand. Students taking the quiz can be allowed to view valuable feedback, question by question, choice by choice, tailored personally to their current understanding—and all this immediately after or even during their quiz-taking experience. This puts learning back into assessment, and students have the opportunity to walk away from their quiz knowing more than when they started.

multiple choice question with specific feedback based on answer choice

An example of a Moodle quiz question in which a teacher has entered specific feedback for each of the distractors.

Using an LMS is only one way to use technology to facilitate valuable feedback. And there are many other ways to use an LMS like Moodle to facilitate feedback, including peer feedback. There are many other tools as well (like Khan Academy, as mentioned above). However, the point is the same: technology can sometimes do for us as teachers and learners far more than we can often do without. The key is recognizing the capacity of technology to help us employ the strategies we all know work.