Cooperating Teacher


Four Ways to Give Effective Feedback to Student Teachers

Reprinted with permission from Jackson (2014). Minor changes have been made to fit ATA style.

If you’ve ever given teachers feedback and your feedback backfired, you’ve learned the hard way one of the fundamental truths of effective feedback: the kind of feedback you give will make or break whether or not the receiver can act on your feedback. That’s why it’s so important to know the four types of feedback you can give to teachers and when to give each type.

Diagnostic feedback identifies the root cause of why something is or is not working. It helps teachers understand more fully the reason for their struggle and clarifies for them the expectations for their future performance and core principles that should guide their work. This kind of feedback is best used with those who are struggling because they lack an understanding of the key concepts involved in the work they are doing.

Prescriptive feedback is designed to help teachers understand what they should be doing differently to be more successful. This kind of feedback helps teachers understand what options they have to improve and what they should do next. Thus, it’s best suited for those who have tried something unsuccessfully and need specific help or direction to improve.

Descriptive feedback is perhaps the most common feedback we give because it is what we’ve been trained to give. This kind of feedback, in which detailed descriptions of performance are provided, is like holding up a mirror and clearly showing teachers what they did well and where they need to improve. This feedback works well for those who have a good foundational understanding of the core expectations and principles that guide their work and have the capacity to be reflective and to make adjustments based on their reflection. However, this feedback will not be as effective for those who are still struggling to understand or implement the basics or for those who are not reflective.

Micro-feedback works best with teachers who have already demonstrated a degree of expertise. Micro-feedback provides small nuances, tweaks and minor adjustments that will significantly improve an already good performance. This kind of feedback not only adds value to effective teachers’ performance but also keeps those teachers consistently improving and growing.

Choosing the right kind of feedback makes all the difference, as the goal of feedback is to inspire and motivate teachers to improve, not to provide ineffective information that will ultimately be ignored