logo ELT Concourse teacher development
Concourse 2

Strand 1: Giving feedback on tasks


You arrived here because you agreed or fully agreed with this statement:

At the end of tasks, I always go through all the items with the whole class so people can check how they did

There are, naturally, times when it is important to do this.  There are other times when this is not an appropriate procedure because it slows the lesson, becomes dull and predictable and takes the responsibility away from the learners.


Why is this important?

Choosing how feedback is given and taken is often a critical matter because it affects the pace of the lesson and the information in it.  Think about why you should not take unnecessary feedback and why necessary feedback is important.  Then click here

The first step in deciding how to take feedback is to be clear about what kind of task you have set.  If you have done the development guide to monitoring, you'll know this so you can skip through quickly.

  1. Are you really interested in the product from the task?
    Do the learners need to get the task right before you can go on?
    Yes to both questions:
    • Then this is a product task so you need some way to check if people have produced the right product.  This may mean going around the class hearing what people came up with but there are, as we shall see, other ways.
  2. Is this task simply one to raise awareness or get the learners thinking about the topic?
    Does it actually matter to the rest of the lesson what they come up with?
    Is this the final task in the lesson in which the learners are using the targets to do something personal in the language?
    Yes to the first question, no to the second question or yes to the third question:
    • This is a process task:
      • What is produced matters a lot less than doing the task itself.
      • If you have monitored the task, you already know if there are any problems that need your attention.  See the development guide to monitoring in this strand for more.

Here's a graphical representation.


More complicated procedures and activities may have elements of both process and product tasks.
In that case, you need to combine the approaches, taking detailed feedback concerning products and impressions only concerning process tasks.


Process tasks

Because feedback doesn't have to be explicit, try some of these ideas

  1. Change the groupings and get the students to feedback their ideas to each other while you wander around, listen and take some notes (see point 3)
  2. Appoint a representative from each group or pair and give the 5 seconds only to tell the rest of the class something interesting
  3. Monitor the task and then pick on two or three interesting things that were said and focus all the feedback on the people who said them
  4. Thank the students for their efforts and explain that the task was only to get them thinking and you don't need feedback
  5. Tell the learners to keep any notes they have made for later reference but take no feedback now


Product tasks

From product tasks, you do need feedback but there is a range of ways to get it.  What you choose will depend a bit on the nature of the task

  1. Get feedback from all the groups or pairs but limit the amount of time they have so they prioritise the difficult issues.  For a language form task, for example, this might mean that the groups/pairs themselves choose which items to focus on.  Take groups in random order so they never know who's next and stay alert.  Starting on the left and going around allows people at the end of the queue to doze off
  2. If you had 12 items, for example, divide the labour and apportion 3 to each of 4 groups.  That way, you cut down on repetition and people stay alert
  3. Get written feedback by getting the learners to produce a poster presentation rather than talk to people who may not be very good at listening (teenagers, for example)
  4. Provide the right answers in some form (on paper, via a transparency, on a projector etc.) and let people see what they got right and wrong and ask you questions
  5. Get the learners to write their responses to the tasks on the whiteboard or via a computer projection
  6. Mix up the groups to compare their answers and monitor very carefully so you know, for example, that everyone got numbers 5 to 8 right that you only need to focus on the rest of the items
  7. Give the right answers to only one member of the group who is not allowed to show it to the others but must explain orally what the answers are


Gauging progress

There's a guide to gauging progress for any development process in this section for some general ideas about how to gather data on your classroom behaviour. In the case of feedback routines, however, here are some suggestions:

  1. Start at the planning stages and institute a habit of marking all your tasks as Product or Process (some may be both) and then make sure that the feedback routine you have planned matches the task type.
  2. While you are giving feedback, keep asking yourself: "Do I need to tell them this or do they already know?"
  3. Make sure you accustom your learners to taking the initiative and asking for feedback on what they found difficult.
  4. Make notes on your plan recording how long your feedback routines took and whether you think it was time well spent.