Are you a teacher with struggling students? Do you wish the class grades were better? Are your students disinterested?

A frustrated teacher looking at computer. She bites her pencil. Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

There is hope! Once you make a simple adjustment to your current teaching technique, you may never look back.

So, what is this teaching technique? Feedforward!

What is Feedforward?

Feedforward is a teaching method that uses conversation to guide learners.

It shifts from feedback, which focuses on the past, to feedforward, which offers suggestions for the future.

A teacher and students having a conversation sitting at a desk.

Benefits of Using Feedforward

  • According to Marshall Goldsmith,feedforwardis a more efficient and effective way to help learners than feedback.

  • It builds confidence and fosters positive change in students.

  • Using feedforward in the classroom helps improve student growth and the outcome of their future assignments.

  • Feedforward helps students understand their strengths and weaknesses positively and constructively, emphasizing self-improvement.

Free List Chart Icon | Colored Outline Icon By Arief Faisal on IconScout There are three basic concepts to remember when using the feedforward approach in the classroom.

#1: Highlight Success

game tiles spelling out Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Always acknowledge at least one positive aspect of an assignment during a feedforward conversation.

When Using Feedforward:

  • Have your students tell you one or two things they did well.

  • Explain to them why their work is impressive. Don't just say, "I like that."

  • If relevant, highlight their organization.

  • If relevant, acknowledge their intention. (the project was well thought out)

Free thumbs up icon by  Aficons studio on IconScout edited to thumbs down Traditional Feedback

"Not bad. Keep going."

"I liked your paper. Nice job."

"Your presentation was interesting."

Free thumbs up icon by  Aficons studio on IconScout

Try the Feedforward Approach Instead

"I like how you came up with two topics to include on your poster. That shows me you're willing to go beyond the basic directions for the assignment. Tell me what you like most about your history poster idea."

"Your project outline is well organized, making it easy to imagine. Which part of the outline are you most proud of and why?"

"You did a great job of researching the topic you wrote about. I can see you're go-getter. That's inspiring! What is your favorite section of the paper and why?"

#2: Coach, Don't Judge

Photo by Randy Tarampi on Unsplash

Learners are more attentive listeners during feedforward conversations.

Shift Your Focus from Feedback to Feedforward:

  • Ask your students what areas they think they can work on.

  • Consider mistakes or omissions as opportunities for growth.

  • Positively support this learning opportunity.

  • Encourage self-improvement with ideas for future assignments. (Next time,...)

  • Keep the conversation about the future (feedforward) and not the past (feedback).

Free thumbs up icon by  Aficons studio on IconScout edited to thumbs down

Traditional Feedback

"There isn't enough information on your science project outline. I can't envision the final project."

"It's apparent that you did not use the rubric as your guide for the assignment. Your score reflects this.

"I subtracted some points because the presentation lacked energy and visual excitement."

Free thumbs up icon by  Aficons studio on IconScout

Try the Feedforward Approach Instead

"Your butterfly project has a lot of potential. What could you add to it to make it appealing to the eyes?"

"Naming the most common butterflies in our area makes your project relevant. What are some fun facts about butterflies that you can include?"

"When editing your outline, consider additional information people might find interesting about butterflies. Be sure to include those details."

#3: Provide Ideas for "Next Time"

photo of a weekly planner Photo by Iga Palacz on Unsplash

Suggestions focused on the future rather than the mistakes of the past are well accepted by learners and, therefore, more productive.

Offer Suggestions for Improvement:

  • Plan regular conversations with your students during projects

  • Use discussion time to guide students' personal improvement goals

  • Take their improved skills to the next level. Make suggestions for additional improvement.

Free thumbs up icon by  Aficons studio on IconScout edited to thumbs down Traditional Feedback

"Your essay is too short."

"There are a lot of spelling errors."

"This is great; I just wish you did more."

Free thumbs up icon by  Aficons studio on IconScout

Try the Feedforward Approach Instead

"When revising your essay, include at least three body parts."

"Before you turn in future drafts, use the spellchecker to see if you made any errors."

"Great start. Let's think about how you could take this from great to extraordinary. What else could you add to this that would amaze your classmates?"

Test Your Feedforward Skills

game tiles reading Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Liam presented his history project to the class yesterday. Today, you have your scheduled after-project review and plan on using the feedforward approach.

Although he had enough facts to earn a passing score, you feel he could have done better and want to provide helpful tips for future assignments.

Which of the following comments are representative of feedforward? Select all that apply:

A. "Next time you present to the class, work on speaking loudly so your classmates in the back of the room can hear you better."

B. "I like how you followed the rubric for the assignment. That tells me you care about doing well in history."

C. "It's common for speakers to have note cards. Consider having some with you during your science project next week."

D. "You presented great historical facts yesterday. When you give your next presentation, including some visuals would be a great idea."


Select all that apply:

Teaching Students To Use Feedforward

two students sitting in a classroom working on an assignment

Teaching your students how to use feedforward in the classroom helps develop lifelong learners.

  1. Have your students review their work and write a simple goal for future revisions.

    "My goal is to include one additional subtopic."

  1. After students have had a chance to review their work and write out a goal, they should meet with a peer and ask for two or three additional suggestions.

    "Besides my additional subtopic, what else should I include?"

  1. During their peer suggestion meeting, have them write down the ideas provided.

    "Include one fun fact."

    "Find a picture that supports the topic."

    "Compare my topic with a similar one."

  1. After they receive suggestions, they should say, "Thank you."

    There shouldn't be any further conversation. A simple "thank you" is all that is needed.

  1. Swap roles and repeat.

  1. Once both students have gone through the feedforward process, have them make improvements based on their new goal and peer suggestions.


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