Training Tip: The Importance of Explanatory Feedback - Grace Hill
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Training Tip of the Week:
The Importance of Explanatory Feedback

Posted on November 28, 2017

Caucasian student disappointed by test with F grade. Sad young student looking at test paper with bad mark. Student dissatisfied with the test results. Vector cartoon illustration. Square layout.

Grace Hill Training Tip of the Week

The Importance of Explanatory Feedback


Frustrated student looking at low grade on her paper without any explanatory feedback.
Providing a score without helpful guidance often leaves students feeling frustrated and helpless.

Did you ever have a teacher who marked up your essays with feedback like, “unclear”, “poor word choice” or “watch your sentence structure”? If so, you might remember feeling a bit helpless, wondering what the comments meant and what to do with them. Comments like these may have given you some information about your performance, but did they really help you become a better writer?


When we are learning new things, it is important to get timely information about what we are doing right or wrong and why, along with information about how to improve. This is called feedback, and it is a critical component of improving learner performance.


How can you create meaningful feedback for your learners? Here are some tips!


"We want your feedback!" megaphone
Using explanatory feedback is key to provide learners with guidance on how to move forward.

Use explanatory feedback. In addition, to “correct” or “incorrect”, provide an explanation of why the response is correct or incorrect. Refer back to key points or examples from the training. Explanatory feedback is most useful when it provides learners with an understanding of where they are, and some guidance on how they can move forward.


Be timely. Feedback is most effective when it is given immediately, rather days or weeks after the learner responded to the question or submitted the assignment. An advantage of some online learning formats is that you can provide feedback immediately. If that’s not possible, just try to follow the rule, “the sooner, the better.”


Display the question, response, and feedback together. Having to flip between the question and the feedback can add cognitive load to learning. If possible, position the feedback so that the learner can see the question, his or her response, and the feedback at the same time. This is most feasible when using online formats but think about this when providing feedback in other formats as well.


In a pinch, have learners generate their own feedback. What if you don’t have the time or resources to provide feedback on written assignments or more complicated work products?  In these cases, ask learners to evaluate their responses against a scoring rubric and a sample answer.  Purposeful comparison to an exemplar, even if the learner doesn’t get feedback from you, can be helpful in getting things into long-term memory.


A missed question or imperfect assignment provides just the right opportunity to teach and correct any misconceptions the learner has. Don’t let these important moments go by!  Instead, use targeted, timely, explanatory feedback to improve performance and keep learners headed in the right direction.

Jorge Caicedo
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