"Instead of simply providing each student with a standardized score that reflects how well they know or can do something in that moment, personalized feedback empowers you to give each student the insight they need to sew up specific gaps in their knowledge or abilities, connect them with resources that speak to their needs and personality and push them to the next level."
Building productive relationships with students is one of the most important jobs for teachers in the opening weeks and months of the school year. Strong teacher-student partnerships build buy-in, support engagement and help learners understand the true power and possibilities of what they can accomplish in school. One of the best ways to forge an authentic, ongoing dialogue with each and every one of your students is to provide them with personalized feedback on their classwork, approach to learning and personal development.
Why Personalized Feedback?
For many teachers, offering individualized feedback sounds like hours of extra work, but once you’ve adjusted your mindset (as well as that of your students), providing personalized feedback is actually more immediate and impactful. Personalized feedback is powerful because it shows each and every one of your students that you view them as individual learners with unique strengths, challenges and goals. When students know you see them as real people and not just a row of numbers in the gradebook, they’re much more likely to buy into your approach and view your classroom as a safe place where they can grow and improve.
Shifting toward a personalized feedback model unties your hands as an educator and allows you to plan and assess with a focus on learning, process, and improvement. Instead of simply providing each student with a standardized score that reflects how well they know or can do something in that moment, personalized feedback empowers you to give each student the insight they need to sew up specific gaps in their knowledge or abilities, connect them with resources that speak to their needs and personality and push them to the next level.
How Do I Begin to Personalize?
If you’ve been using primarily standardized assessments, opening up to personalization can be intimidating, but if you start the year by building a structured understanding of your students (and encouraging them to gain a structured understanding of themselves as learners), you’ll be laying a strong foundation for personalization. In order to provide personalized feedback that really means something, you need to know what makes your students tick: What does each of them like or dislike? Which academic or soft skills are they already proud of? Which academic or soft skills do they know are areas of weakness? What do they like or enjoy that you can use as an access point or basis for a personalized learning experience?
You can get a lot of that crucial information by surveying your students, encouraging them to use interest inventories to gain metacognitive insights and even having them create a Learner Profile, a living document that houses information about their existing skill set, interests, motivators, and goals. Speaking of goals, goal-setting is a great beginning-of-year activity for teachers looking to provide more personalized feedback. Goals are crucial to personalization because it’s much easier to identify what kind of feedback and guidance is most useful once you know what your students want to accomplish both academically and personally. By creating Learner Profiles and goals early in the school year, you create a wealth of resources to support personalization, both for yourself as a teacher and each of your students as learners.
How Does Personalized Feedback Support Achievement?
Personalized feedback is all about reaching your students with the right feedback in a way they understand and feel empowered to follow up on. By providing them with actionable feedback that considers their strengths, weaknesses, preferences and skills as well as their long- and short-term goals, you transform the academic experience from something that’s done to them to something they have an active, empowered role in.
When learners are challenged, engaged and encouraged to buy in through authentic teacher-student relationships and targeted feedback, it builds internal motivation and shows each student that they are a valued individual with a support network that knows and cares about them. That mindset and environment of support provides students with the confidence, grit and enthusiasm they need to break down walls, improve upon personal bests and grow toward a successful college-and-career-ready life.