The Fundamentals of Feedback: Trust & Frequency | Tara Quigley | 8 Min Read

It’s not teaching that causes learning, after all — as painful as it might be for us educators to realize. Learning is caused by learners attempting to do something and getting feedback on the attempt. So learners need endless feedback more than they need endless teaching.

~ Grant Wiggins

When I was a child and “played school” with my siblings, my favorite part, as a teacher, was “grading” the assignments I had created. In hindsight, I think it was more about “being right” than anything else; it certainly wasn’t helpful feedback on improving. Over the course of my 24+ year teaching career, I have assessed and provided feedback on countless assignments, but it was the lessons I learned 5 years ago at the Science of Teaching and School Leadership Academy at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Potomac, Maryland that made the biggest difference in how I provide feedback. There were a couple of important lessons about giving feedback that leads to real improvement which has stuck with me ever since and influenced the way I teach. 

Knowing the end goal of an assignment is a key piece of providing useful feedback. According to Hattie and Timperley, in their article The Power of Feedback,

Effective feedback must answer three major questions asked by a teacher and/or by a student: Where am I going? (What are the goals?), How am I going? (What progress is being made toward the goal?), and Where to next? (What activities need to be undertaken to make better progress?) These questions correspond to notions of feed up, feed back, and feed forward.”

Hattie and Timperley

One of the important changes I have made to my practice of feedback is ensuring that students know the end goal. I have collected and/or created a variety of exemplars that demonstrate what a final product should look like. With my sixth graders, the opportunity to see what a final product could and should be is significant; they are interested and will often ask clarifying questions about what they see. They want to create fine quality work and seeing an example is important for them. 

There are two types of feedback, formative and summative. Formative feedback serves to provide guidance about how a student is progressing towards a summative goal and what they can do to redirect or improve their performance. It also informs a…

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Tara Quigley

Tara Quigley began her teaching career in 1991 and has been at Princeton Day School for 23 years. She currently teaches sixth grade Humanities, serves as Director of Miss Fine’s Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, and is the Middle School Technology Coordinator. She works for OESIS as the Director of Program Alignment, working with schools to build mission-aligned culture and program. Having begun her career as a Middle-School science teacher, Tara has always been interested in incorporating inquiry, questioning, and exploration in her classroom. She has also taught early-childhood science, fourth grade, and fifth and sixth grade Humanities at Princeton Day School. In order to spark more engagement and intrinsic motivation in her classes, Tara began using Design Thinking, PBL, and inquiry in her Humanities classes to encourage student agency and allow for differentiation with Competency-Based Learning for feedback and assessment. Having seen great success with this approach, Tara frequently shares her process and experiences with her colleagues at PDS, national conferences, and peer schools. In 2014, Tara was appointed to the position of Director of Miss Fine’s Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in which she has worked to educate and empower teachers to try new pedagogical practices and strategies, including: design thinking, PBL, Guided Inquiry Research, Visible Thinking Protocols, and teaching towards mastery of skills and competencies. In 2016, Tara was recognized as an OESIS Network Leader. And in 2020 she received the Intrepid Innovator Award.