Feedback: A valuable teaching strategy for health education and physical education, Part 1

Feedback is an essential instructional strategy; when implemented effectively it can improve both student and teacher performance in Health Education and Physical Education. This article will introduce just a few of the many concepts and resources that are available and encourage educators to explore additional resources through the links provided.

According to Grant Wiggins, “Effective feedback is concrete, specific and useful; it provides actionable information. Actionable feedback must also be accepted by the performer. The reaction of the recipient is the most important part about feedback…Decades of education research support the idea that by teaching less and providing more feedback, we can produce greater learning” (see Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000; Hattie, 2008; Marzano, Pickering, & Pollock, 2001 Seven Keys to Effective Feedback).

“Feedback is an important component in the formative assessment process. Formative assessment gives information to teachers and students about how students are doing relative to classroom learning goals. From the student’s point of view, the formative assessment ‘script’ reads like this: What knowledge or skills do I aim to develop? How close am I now? What do I need to do next? Giving good feedback is one of the skills teachers need to master as part of good formative assessment.” (How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students by Susan M. Brookhart) How feedback is given is one of the most important keys to how successful it will be. It is a learned skill which requires practice.

Teachers can employ three simple approaches to effectively use feedback as an instructional strategy.

  • Use it consistently to shift practice. As with making any change in practice, focus and get good at it.
  • Provide specific feedback instead of using general comments such as good job; say I notice that you are stepping on the opposite foot to make a throw. Cues should always be based on what students are doing well or what they need to do to improve performance. If you use “I can” statements in your class you could say to the student that I see that you can do steps 1, 3, and 5 so now you can focus on steps 2 and 4. Focusing on what is next moves performance forward.
  • Provide students with sentence stems to frame their feedback when they are providing feedback to one another i.e. “I like what you did with…” Feedback about what went right is as important as feedback about what didn’t work, so be sure that students receive positive comments before any critical ones. “2 Stars and a Wish” is an example found in Embedding Formative Assessment by Dylan Wiliam & Siobhan Leahy. This book is a fabulous resource for learning about feedback with lots of approaches. “2 Stars and a Wish” is also found on the Dylan Wiliam Center website within the article, Practical Ideas for Classroom Formative Assessment (Technique #4).

Applying feedback in health education and physical education 

When students are doing self-reflection, teachers can provide them with sentence starters to look at their own work. This physical education website provides examples of self- and peer- assessments, Formative Assessment in #PhysEd. Teachers can model quality feedback to students by having them provide feedback to the teacher using sentence starters.  This will provide actionable feedback. For example, “I would really appreciate your insight into ….. (yesterday’s activity).” Sentence starters can be used by students when doing self-reflection.

In health education, educators can incorporate feedback on decision making and communication skills by using behavioral rehearsal (role plays) that include an observer checklist. The observer records the participant(s) verbal responses, body language, tone of voice, when appropriate, did they repeat answer, suggest alternatives, use delay techniques, use relationship building, etc. In other words, did the participant(s) make a healthy decision and communicate it clearly.

Another resource which summarizes the use of feedback is, Instructional Strategies: Teacher and Peer Feedback (Designing Effective Projects, 2012 Intel Corporation.) This includes sample forms for teacher feedback and peer feedback.

Trusting relationships are necessary for the recipients to receive quality feedback. The teacher must know the student and the student must trust the teacher. Dylan Wiliam shares his thoughts on this aspect of effective feedback in an article with a video clip titled Feedback for Learning: Make Time to Save Time (Jan 2015). This is one of many valuable resources found at the Dylan Wiliam Center website.

There are innumerable aspects of using feedback to improve student success. This article has only provided an introduction. Future articles will highlight more aspects that need to be explored. Meanwhile, don’t just read about this practice, try it out!

For more information about feedback or health education and physical education, contact Maine DOE Health Education and Physical Education Specialists Susan Berry at susan.berry@maine.gov or Jean Zimmerman at jean.zimmerman@maine.gov.