Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Supporting Self-Directed Learners: Five Forms of Feedback

Costa, Arthur L., & Garmston, Robert, J. (2013). Supporting Self-Directed Learners: Five Forms of Feedback. ASCD Express, 8 (18). http://www.ascd.org/ascd-express/vol8/818-costa.aspx.


This article describes five forms of feedback, ranked in order of effectiveness for developing “student’s capacity for self-directedness:”

1. Reflective questioning.
2. Nonjudgmental data.
3. Inferences, causality, and Interpretations.
4. Personal opinions and preferences.
5. Evaluations and judgments.  

The authors define each form, offer examples, and explain how it may promote or discourage self-directed learning.   The fifth section, “Evaluations and judgments,” is twice as long as any other; here,  with reference to relevant literature, the authors discuss the possible effects of praise and rewards on learning.  The authors conclude that the first two forms of feedback support self-directed learning while the remaining three work against this goal.  Apart from the examples of each type of feedback, the article provides no quantitative or qualitative data; it is a series of reasonable hypotheses around language and cognition, as opposed to a full research study.  In the final section, “Feedback for Learning,” the authors explain the importance of self-directed learning for nurturing creative, resilient, and successful children.


“Posing mediating questions has the highest potential for developing self-directedness, as the intent is to alert the students to the data that will serve to provide self-feedback, process that feedback, construct meaning from it, and set goals to self-modify as needed to achieve desired results.”

“Evaluative feedback makes the smallest contribution to learning and behavior change. When the teacher makes value-laden comments, this sends a signal that she is the final arbitrator of what is good or bad. The teacher may think that making judgments—either positive or negative—is helpful or reinforcing for students, but the opposite is true. Such comments shift the focus from feedback to evaluation.”

“Our wish is for creative students who are eager to learn. Having this disposition means always striving for improvement, always growing, always learning, always modifying. Experiencing problems, situations, tensions, conflicts, and circumstances provides valuable opportunities to gather feedback and to learn.”

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