Feedback for students

In HCE, feedback is an integral part of the student’s learning and developmental process. It is vital that the Mentors, Facilitators, Coaches and Tutors not only reflect with the student on their progress but also liaise with each other so as to give the student consistent feedback.

Feedback for students has four essential features.

  1. It exemplifies the idea that students are responsible for their own learning.
  2. It embodies the principle that such learning consists in the student’s holistic development.
  3. It requires that the student understands the relevant standards well. That is to say that the process of providing feedback is one of helping the student understand better what counts as good and better, and why. However, what counts as improvement depends in part on the student’s own goals which are defined in collaboration with the Mentor, and such improvement must be holistic. It cannot be merely academic in the normal sense of the word. It will include the development of character, disposition and other personal qualities.
  4. It is non-judgemental. It ought to be loving, generous and usually gentle because such qualities are fundamental for the student to improve him or herself and his or her learning. Such feedback doesn’t consist in a grade that encourages the student to compare herself to others. It is different from a grade in that what is important is the content of the feedback. It is a set of messages. Furthermore, it encourages the student to improve relative to his or her own past (relative to a set of standards or criteria) rather than to become better than someone else. In this way, it should embody and require critical self-reflection.

It may be helpful to think of such feedback as being addressed at four levels.

(a) There is feedback pertaining to specific projects or tasks. Such task-based feedback should be timely, focusing on giving very practical advice in terms of the strengths of the student’s work, and suggestions with regard to the ways she might improve the quality of her project or task. Some feedback is immediate and can take place during the class conversation or be given in the form of written comments about the student’s work. It is not judgemental and is more informative than a grade, and can help the student improve the quality of her work.

(b) Feedback should be given to the student on her learning processes and approach to learning. This feedback is based on an overview of the student’s learning journey over a period of time, and the ways that he is able to take responsibility and care for her learning experience. The emphasis of such feedback is on enhancing the student’s abilities and approaches to understanding.

Feedback at these two levels will often come from a Project Supervisor, or Tutor.

(c) The young person will receive feedback on her commitment, self-control and confidence. Such feedback is connected to how learning supports the cultivation of personal qualities and caring dispositions and, therefore, will most likely be provided by the Mentor.

(d) The student needs feedback on the overall development of herself as a person. Once again, such advice is often provided by a Mentor who knows the student well, including her interests, priorities and personal trajectories.