The Importance of Effective Feedback During Tutoring Sessions
Giving feedback to your students is key to effective learning. In fact, your feedback is powerful. It helps students build self-confidence, fuels their motivation, and keeps them accountable as they work toward their academic goals. That's why it’s critical that you learn how to give effective feedback during your tutoring sessions. To help you refine your feedback strategies, follow these simple tips!
Deliver feedback in a supportive way
Sometimes feedback is delivered in a way that causes learners to shut down. Even if you have positive feedback and the best intentions, you could inadvertently cause more harm than help.
For example, if your student is struggling to arrive at the correct answer for a problem, you might feel like it’s your duty to tell them the correct answer and then point out how easy that was to find that answer if only they had been thinking properly. This type of feedback is more likely to bring shame than support.
Instead, strive to give constructive feedback that motivates your student to keep trying. Always use a warm, reassuring, and enthusiastic tone when delivering your feedback. Cheer your students on!
Give specific feedback
Be as specific as possible to let your student know what they did correctly. Focused feedback can also help your student be aware of what they should focus on for improvement.
Many tutors rely on broad feedback catch-phrases, such as "Good job!" or "Way to go!". While these are encouraging ways to cheer your student on, they are too vague to be effective.
Try to expand on that feedback, such as, "Good job! You added the semicolons in the appropriate places in this sentence."
Focused feedback should let your student know where they are at in the learning process and where they need to be to grasp the material. Encourage your student as you guide them through the material, and keep the goal in sight, so you both feel a sense of accomplishment when you arrive there.
Specific feedback can also come in the form of joint problem-solving. If your student is struggling during the tutoring session, collaborate with them and work through the problem together.
For example, you could suggest possible ways of solving the problem and then ask your student which method might work best.
Relate feedback to the student's goals
Students should have a goal, whether it’s to understand a specific math concept, improve their grades in science class, or write a good history report.
It's your job to help your students see how their accomplishments in each tutoring session relate to their progress toward their goal. Try to structure your feedback to motivate your students to reach their goals.
For example, if your student is trying to improve their overall science grade and they successfully diagrammed a cell during your tutoring session, you could say, "You did a great job diagramming this cell. You’re showing great progress, and if you keep working this hard, your science grades will keep improving."
As you get to know your student better, you may be tempted to provide feedback based on your student's personality or personal situation. For instance, you might say something like, "Look at you! Despite being so shy and quiet, you did really well with your French pronunciation today."
Try to keep your feedback related to specific goals. You want your student to feel more in control of their own learning, not dependent on external circumstances. Blaming failure on external factors is called a self-serving bias, which is not an effective way to learn.
Be timely with your feedback
Immediate feedback is the most effective form of feedback. As soon as your student does something right, tell them what they did!
Don't wait until your student asks for feedback. Some students will never ask for feedback, so it's your job to be on the ball with your encouragement and positive reinforcement.
Research shows that immediate feedback helps students learn more. In this study, the students who received delayed feedback did not comprehend the lessons as effectively as the students who received immediate feedback.
Timely feedback helps your student gauge their progress as they learn the material. If you always wait until the end of the tutoring session, you risk your student feeling frustrated instead of motivated during the session.
Avoid giving too much feedback
There is such a thing as too much feedback. Giving your student too much feedback can make them feel stressed. They could end up feeling insecure about their ability to learn. They may feel hesitant to fully engage in the learning process.
Consider conversations you've had where you couldn't get a word in edgewise. Those aren't the best conversations, are they?
Similarly, there should be a balance between giving feedback and letting your student interact. Make sure you give your students sufficient time to work through the problems and make mistakes. That's how they learn best!
Effective feedback can mean the difference between a motivated student and a student who wants to quit. As the tutor, it's your responsibility to provide meaningful feedback that will support your student as they strive toward their academic goals.
Remember to find a balance between your specific comments and your student's questions and comments. Be honest, encouraging, and approachable, so your student feels free to ask questions and voice their own concerns.
Learning is a process, and your feedback is part of the fuel that keeps your student moving toward the next step. As you continue tutoring, try to incorporate the above feedback strategies. Your students are not the only ones learning new things!
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