Focal Points for Feedback: Who Should Choose?

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We devote a lot of space to the exploration of feedback and its influence on learners. This is for good reason, too: it’s likely that quality feedback does more to improve learning and performance than anything else that happens inside of schools. We’ve learned much about how to provide great feedback, but I’m wondering about something else: when it comes to picking focal points for feedback, who should choose?

Here’s what experts have to say about quality feedback:

  • It’s timely and actionable: we provide it at the moment when learners can best use it
  • It’s exact, and it’s documented: our statements are criteria-specific and recorded in ways that allow learners to return to them
  • It’s non-directive: it inspires learners to reflect, inquire, and problem solve on their own rather than merely applying a reviewer’s suggestions

I’d like to add another point to this list of bullets: quality feedback is initiated by the learner, and the learner owns the feedback. But how do we make this happen?

When learners determine what type of feedback they’d like to receive and which elements of their learning and work they would like reviewers to focus on, something very powerful happens: they take ownership of their work.

7 Examples of Ownership

  1. Investigating mentor texts and models, in order to define what quality looks like
  2. Prototyping and drafting with very specific goals in mind
  3. Clarity: in vision, purpose, and craft
  4. Learner-initiated conferences and reviews
  5. Requests for specific types of feedback at specific points in the process for very specific purposes
  6. Self-advocacy: learners providing feedback to reviewers on the quality of the feedback they provided, how well it served them, and what they need next
  7. Recognition of the fact that they don’t have to respond to a reviewer’s feedback, and knowing when it makes sense not to

Inspire ownership

Eager to improve ownership through the use of high quality feedback? Consider trying these protocols, adapted from the work of my friends at Communities for Learning: Leading Lasting Change. Let me know how they work for you and for your students. Let me know how you change them in order to make them your own, too.

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A former English teacher, Angela Stockman is the founder of the WNY Young Writer's Studio, a community of writers and teachers of writing in Buffalo, New York. She is also an education consultant with expertise in curriculum design, instructional coaching, and assessment. Read more from Angela at

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