Teacher Practice 3.3 Facilitate feedback and reflection processes

T3.3 Facilitate feedback and reflection processes

Highlander Institute Spotlight Series


The purpose of feedback is to improve student performance by supporting students to own their progress toward mastery. Effective feedback is timely, specific, and personalized to encourage students with varying levels of skills and confidence. Strong feedback processes provide students with access to their performance-based data to help them understand where they stand, and offer concrete actions they can take to improve their work. Studies exploring effective teaching and learning have found that learners consistently want answers to four questions regarding their work (Dinham, 2002; 2007a; 2007b):

  • What can I do? (Where have I reached mastery)?
  • What can’t I do yet? (What needs to be improved)?
  • How does my work compare with others? (Are my struggles universal or individual?)
  • How can I do better?

Similarly, student reflection routines increase student learning by supporting growth mindsets and encouraging students to improve and learn from their mistakes (Miller, 2019). Clear learning targets and opportunities for short-term goal setting help support frequent reflection. Thinking routines, such as “I used to think…, but now I think…” or “3-2-1 Bridge” support student reflection at the end of lessons or units of study. A set of reflection questions or prompts can also help students process their learning, such as:

  • What was the most important thing you learned today?
  • How does your new learning connect to something you already knew?
  • What caused you to struggle today?
  • What do you need in order to improve your work?
  • What are you most interested in learning about next?

It is important for teachers to be aware of feedback bias (see research in the “Why?” section below), and work to intentionally integrate culturally responsive practices into feedback and reflection routines. Strong practices begin with rubrics that clarify a rigorous level of mastery within a certain lesson or skill. This clarity supports opportunities for both self-assessment and peer feedback, where students support each other in building mastery and create a strong learning community. Feedback and reflection activities should affirm student strengths, celebrate growth, and teach students how to talk about themselves as learners. Finally, there should be opportunities for students, teachers, and families to reflect as well as give and receive feedback in support of positive learning experiences and continuous improvement.


  • Several research summaries place teacher feedback among the top 10 influences of any kind on achievement when feedback is timely, specific, and focuses on cognitive processes versus overall proficiency (Hattie & Timperley, 2007; Van der Kleij et al., 2015). 
  • An important caveat is positive feedback bias; a 2012 study found that teachers give more positive, less constructive feedback to Black and Latinx students, contributing to  insufficient challenge and lower expectations that can undermine the academic achievement of students of color (Harber et al., 2012).  
  • At a school where the average GPA was 1.3, 11th and 12th graders submitted self-reflective surveys after completing lessons and assignments; nearly 75% of students reported increased academic motivation. The majority of students noted that survey reflections increased their effort, efficiency, and promptness (Cavilla, 2017). 
  • 5th and 6th grade math students who reflected on what they had learned at the end of each lesson outperformed their peers (Bond, 2003).
  • Students’ writing assignments improved as a result of increased feedback through one-on-one student-led conferences. Further, the percentage of students earning the highest score on writing assignments increased throughout the semester (Zeiser et al. 2018).



Bond, John B., “The effects of reflective assessment on student achievement” (2003). Theses and Dissertations, 1. https://digitalcommons.spu.edu/etd/1

Cavilla, D. (2017). The effects of student reflection on academic performance and motivation. SAGE Open, 7(3). https://doi.org/10.1177/2158244017733790

Dinham, S. (2002). NSW Quality Teaching Awards: Research, rigour and transparency. Unicorn, 28(1): 5-9.

Dinham, S. (2007a). Leadership for exceptional educational outcomes. Teneriffe, Qld.: Post Pressed.

Dinham, S. (2007b). The secondary Head of Department and the achievement of exceptional student outcomes. Journal of Educational Administration, 45(1): 62-79.

Harber, K. D., Gorman, J. L., Gengaro, F. P., Butisingh, S., Tsang, W., & Ouellette, R. (2012). Students’ race and teachers’ social support affect the positive feedback bias in public schools. Journal of Educational Psychology, 104(4), 1149–1161. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0028110

Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The Power of Feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81–112. https://doi.org/10.3102/003465430298487

Miller, A. (2019, May 8). Treating reflection as a habit, not an event. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/article/treating-reflection-habit-not-event/

Van der Kleij, F. M., Feskens, R. C. W., & Eggen, T. J. H. M. (2015). Effects of feedback in a computer-based learning environment on students’ learning outcomes: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 85(4), 475–511. https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654314564881

Zeiser, K., Scholz, C., and Cirks, V. (2018). Maximizing Student Agency: Implementing and Measuring Student-Centered Learning Practices. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED592084.pdf