<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none;" alt="" src="https://ct.pinterest.com/v3/?event=init&amp;tid=2612973267799&amp;pd[em]=<hashed_email_address>&amp;noscript=1">
By Amanda Dodge • May 18, 2022

How Formative Assessments and Feedback Lead to Student Learning Outcomes

Every student in your classroom has different levels of knowledge and confidence in the learning process. Whether you stay with a single class of students throughout the day or engage with more than 100 learners across the week, each student wants to be recognized. Your challenge is not only to teach these students but also to connect and engage with them. For many kids, you are likely one of the most prominent adult authority figures outside of their families.

One way to connect with your students is through feedback. Clear feedback throughout the year can make kids feel seen and improve student learning outcomes. Here are a few challenges of providing feedback—and solutions based on your classroom structure.  

Standard Assessments Don’t Provide Context 

Standardized assessments do not provide clear feedback to students or parents. Digital tests spit out numbers and report which questions students got right. Parents receive progress reports on whether their students are getting good grades or not without understanding why their kids are succeeding or struggling. There’s no context involved.  

Recently, there has been an increased push in education to add feedback to the grading process to improve student learning outcomes. After all, a grade is just one data point. It doesn’t reflect the student’s learning journey as a whole. With context, everyone involved in the learning experience can gain insights into what these grades mean. A few questions that feedback can answer include: 

  • Is the student making progress in the right direction, even if they aren’t acing their assignments just yet? 
  • Did the student try their hardest or does the grade reflect carelessness and disengagement? 
  • What skills needed to complete the assignment is the student good at? These can range from critical thinking to walking through the work process. 
  • What are some steps the student can take to improve in the future? 

Sharing your thoughts through constructive feedback can inform parents and empower students to grow in the future. These notes can also help teachers learn where students need help so they can develop better lesson plans to turn weaknesses into strengths. 


Image credit: TeachThought

Micro-Feedback Makes Teacher Communication Realistic

While you might have several notes that you want to pass on to students, you likely don’t have the time to provide detailed feedback on every assignment. Grading would take hours and your students likely wouldn’t read and absorb every note you provide them. This is where micro-feedback comes in. 

“Micro-feedback, or a specific and just-in-time nano dose of information or insights, reduces competency gaps between goals and reality,” says Dr. Jiani Wu, learning scientist. “Micro-feedback is usually implemented in a microlearning or nudge environment where complex tasks and goals are scaffolded into much simpler and specific learning tasks.”

Offering micro–feedback is similar to providing navigational directions to a driver on the road. If you only gave students feedback after an assessment, it would be like telling someone they missed their turn a few blocks after they passed it. Conversely, offering micro-feedback is similar to telling the driver which lane they need to be in, what landmarks to look for, and when a turn is approaching.  

At eSpark, we build our programs on micro–feedback. Students answer questions or complete games throughout our activities. They receive feedback when they do something right or when something is wrong. By offering micro-feedback throughout the learning process, students don’t have to wait for formal assessment results to change how they approach problems or think about concepts. 

Different Types of Feedback Apply to Different Situations

Once you commit to providing micro–feedback in the classroom, you can start to identify ways to communicate with students without taking up too much of your time. Some teachers can provide micro–feedback to a student in a few seconds depending on the assignment or task. 

Luna Deller, an educator and former linguist, provided multiple examples of the types of feedback that teachers can provide to students. Feedback doesn’t have to involve student conferencing or detailed rubric reviews. It can be built into any form of assessment or task you create for your students. A few types of feedback include:

  • Verbal feedback: discussions with students in one-on-one settings or for misconceptions that need to be addressed quickly. 
  • Light touch written feedback: this involves quick notes – usually written on assignments in order to acknowledge student progress. 
  • Self-feedback: this process encourages students to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses. 
  • Peer feedback: students learn to evaluate each other and provide constructive insights.

Using these options, you can make feedback an integral part of your classroom. Instead of simply grading work (or using online tools that grade assignments for you), you can add notes to students about where they should focus their energies and what they are doing well.

Giving and Receiving Feedback Can be Empowering 

Peer feedback can be an engaging way for students to receive constructive ideas and help without burdening you with endless notetaking and grading. A few teachers have improved student learning outcomes with peer feedback and noticed how some students embrace their roles as knowledgable leaders in the classroom. 

“Besides relieving me of some of the pressure, creating a classroom culture where students give each other feedback has helped me increase engagement and build community,” says Jamie Kobs, an English teacher. “Having more frequent interactions among students builds rapport and trust and disrupts the idea that I’m the only expert in the room." 

By giving feedback—even subjective feedback on a student essay or project—students learn to voice what they think is good and where they see room for improvement. Too often, kids are on the receiving end of instruction and evaluation. They rarely get to speak up and share their thoughts. Peer feedback is a small way to teach students to voice ideas constructively while identifying how they feel about different assignments. 

Always Keep an Eye on the Future

There is one more thing to remember as you determine the best ways to add micro-feedback to the classroom: make sure your feedback can be applied to future lessons and challenges. Even end-of-year assessments can have action items for next year’s classroom.

Keeping a forward-thinking mentality can also give you a formula for providing feedback. Some teachers use the “feedback sandwich” model to quickly provide insight or advice to students:

  • Start with a complement of something the student did right or does well. 
  • Identify an issue or problem the student can address. 
  • Provide actionable items to improve in the future. 

This sandwich of ideas allows you to approach each student positively and to end your feedback on a hopeful note. It is clear and actionable for the future. 

Improve Student Learning Outcomes With Feedback

Feedback is a way to engage students and prevent them from feeling lost or ignored. As class sizes continue to grow, it’s easy for some students to slip through the cracks. By implementing micro-feedback and looking for tools like eSpark that build feedback into their systems, you can check on your students throughout the learning process. 

If you are interested in learning more about eSpark, get to know our teacher resources. You can also sign up for free to start adding our games and activities to your classroom. All of our Quests are student-approved—if young learners don’t like our activities, we remove and update them. This means each class will be excited to play and learn with eSpark.

About the Author

Amanda Dodge is a copywriter for eSpark with a decade of content marketing experience. She has been writing and researching in the EdTech niche since 2018 and marvels at how teachers continue to do more with less in order to help their students. Amanda lives in St. Petersburg, Florida where she sits on the board of the local literary non-profit Wordier Than Thou.


Ready to see student-centered learning in action?

Or call (312) 894-3100