Constructive Feedback

Receiving comments, advice, pointers and feedback is an immensely important part of human learning and development.  Whether it be feedback on a cake one has baked, a task completed for work, or that final highly important essay, getting feedback is a great tool highlighting what one has done well in addition to where and how one can improve. Humans, naturally by design, never stop learning. This innate ability allows and assists us to change, develop, and adapt to varying tasks, situations, and challenges.

Dyslexia does not reduce or impact one’s intelligence. Conversely, many dyslexic individuals score highly on intelligence testing, exceeding in visual thinking, creativity, and empathy. Whilst researching dyslexia I found a number of articles that outlined and explained why feedback is so important for those belonging to the neurodivergent population. Individualised, person-specific feedback provides individuals with details and tools for learning, support, and pointers for improvement. Additionally, these articles also detailed how feedback should be presented and structured to a dyslexic individual. Policies seek to make all teaching and learning inclusive; whereby all individuals have the opportunity for development, progression and to fulfill their unique potentials (British Dyslexia Association, 2020). Key to this is to strive to remove and diminish barriers to learning that face dyslexic individuals and to promote all-encompassing equality.

The British Dyslexia Association has outlined a number of recommendations for marking and giving feedback to dyslexic learners. These include:

  • Ensuring that work is marked fairly; “neither compensating or penalising for disability”.
  • Feedback should be supportive, constructive, and encouraging and should highlight where work is strong. This is of particular importance as dyslexics can present with poor self-esteem and self-belief. Acknowledging and emphasising one’s strengths can be a great way to improve and benefit an individual’s emotional well-being (British Dyslexia Association, 2023).
  • It is highly important to focus on content, ideas, and points rather than any evident errors, particularly within spelling and grammar.
  • Feedback should clearly state where work can be improved and how. If possible examples of signposting how to improve and strengthen work should be included. As an exemplar, this can include suggestions of where examples, technical language, or further detail/explanation could be added.

Other resources also discussed feedback and provided suggestions as to how this should be presented to dyslexic learners.

  • Feedback should be personalised and praise should be fully utilised, even if errors, potentially repeated errors, occur (The Open University, 2018).
  • Possessing an awareness and appreciation that dyslexic individuals may not always be able to self-correct or notice errors in their work. Encourage dyslexic learners to use reasonable adjustments, such as speech-to-text or text read-aloud functions (Dyslexia Association of Singapore, 2023).
  • Being aware of individual learner’s strengths, weaknesses, and aptitudes. Knowing a learner well will assist in giving helpful and informative feedback specific to them (Dyslexia Association of Singapore, 2023).

Looking back upon my work from university I came across the coversheet that was pasted to the front of each piece of my written postgraduate work. This ‘Assessed Work Coversheet’ was used to highlight and alert markers to a learning difference or neurodivergence of the owner/author of the work. Crucially this coversheet emphasised that markers should be sensitive and aware of the potential difficulties of the student. Vitally for a dyslexic learner, this can include: spelling, inconsistent use of grammar, difficulty in maintaining fluency/flow of writing, and unsuccessful proofreading. A profound and important inclusion within the coversheet, which unfortunately is often overlooked, emphasised that the work produced and presented may not fully reflect the time, effort, and knowledge put into the overall completed piece of work.

It could be argued and emphasised that when giving and providing feedback to a neurodivergent individual this should be presented as both feedback and ‘feedforward’. The feedback element provides comments, suggestions, and notes a student’s current performance/grade, i.e. the piece of work last handed in and marked. In stark contrast, feedforward would provide comments, suggestions, and ideas for future work to help improve upcoming performance. In this way, a student can receive helpful, unique, and comprehensive comments covering the best of both worlds, both past and future.

Providing dyslexic and neurodivergent students with clear, useful, and specific feedback, and potentially feedforward, can be a great way to improve performance and results in their work. Moreover, with markers being aware and conscious of the student’s difficulties the feedback given can be supportive and appropriate to that individual. Ultimately, feedback is a great tool that aims to empower, and not discourage, and help reduce barriers to learning and promote fulfilment and development within the dyslexic community.

References Cited