Dr. Somali Ghosh, Asst. Professor Case Western Reserve University, and Chief Strategy Advisor, Kapdec

Dr. Ghosh began her career with the elite Indian Economy Services within the Planning Commission of India. Having interacted with world-class economists and academicians, who ultimately inspired her journey into academia. Dr. Ghosh followed her dreams to pursue a Ph.D. in Marketing Management and currently teaching at a Case Western Reserve University in the USA.


The learning journey for a student comprises four critical steps, namely: (1) Learning (2) Assessment Feedback (3) Gap Identification and (4) Relearning. The outcome of the entire learning growth cycle is to break free of textbookish cookie-cutter solutions that depend on the memory of familiar situations alone, in favor of insightful extension of thought applied to unknown or unfamiliar situations.

To maintain the continuum of the learning growth cycle, every step is equally important. However, there is one step that makes a substantial impact, that of “Gap identification,” which is the penultimate step towards ensuring the continuation of the learning growth cycle.  Gap identification requires the student to understand and appreciate where logic or reasoning, or effort fell short of expectations.  The transition from identifying gaps to relearning depends on a teacher’s effective communication with a student through insightful and constructive feedback.

It is at this point in the learning journey that the importance of “HOW” feedback is delivered matters more than the “WHAT” the input is.  As we all know, a half-filled glass can be seen as half full or half empty, depending on one’s frame of mind; if feedback to a student focuses only on what is lacking and inadequate, that tends to introduce either a sense of desperation and academic deficiency or a defensive ego related bias in the student’s mind that then shuts down to the possibility of re-visiting the issue and understanding the logic that led to the feedback. It is hard to argue with logic, so the input has to be logical in its content and highlight aspects that may have been noteworthy or adding an encouragement or incentive (such as extra credit marks ) to help encourage a re-attempt at learning the matter at hand. Feedback need not be de-motivating; if anything, making a mistake is the first step towards learning and developing accurate insights into a subject.

Feedback delivered with a sense of empathy and optimism is always a great idea.  Students and especially young students who have impressionable minds can do wonders if encouraged and nurtured positively. It is scientifically proven that negative feedback floods the brain with stress-inducing hormones and prove counter-productive to the learning process. In contrast, positive feedback induces feelings of happiness, higher self-confidence levels,  and more creative and energetic brain functioning.

The Existing Challenges in the Gap Identification in the Learning Process

The problem with our current education system is that it is a system of letter grades. While it is a must to have a reward system with the hard work they perform and grades do provide a satisfying criterion for success. However, The grading system has one major flaw: students tend to focus on just the grade and lose focus of the primary objective of learning, which involves the value, performance, and mastery aspects of learning.

A pedagogical shift from a grade-dependent system to a constructive feedback-oriented system is needed to do away with this approach and make the learning process a valuable journey for students. As we make this change, students are more likely to focus on potential and growth rather than mastering the art of shortcuts to get good grades.

Structural Elements of Constructive Feedback 

Delivering feedback has several essential aspects that require careful consideration.  Let’s explore the essential elements of constructive feedback in detail:

  1. Student-Friendly

To ensure that a student receives feedback well, it should be student-friendly, personalized, encouraging, and kind. As a teacher, one must respond to a student in a way that can be easily comprehended, with a clear and logical train of thought.

  1. Optimistic 

To instill academic confidence, there should always be a provision for amending the mistakes made, i.e., with a solution to how the student may demonstrate that they have fixed their flawed answer and understood the subject matter at hand.

  1. Motivational and Incentive Driven 

It is always easier to motivate and encourage through incentives such as extra credit marks or even sincere appreciation of efforts.

  1. Consistent and Timely

Feedback must be ongoing, consistent, objective, accurate, and stable in tone and language to derive maximum value from of it. When feedback is not regular, it might demotivate or disinterest students.

  1. Target – Oriented

Feedback of any kind should be tied to a measurable learning outcome. Moreover, teachers should not only layout the expectations but also help students understand where they are in relation to the mentioned goals and tie these goals to success in the chosen subject matter down the road.

  1. Concise

Feedback should be concise and focused on areas that will have the most significant impact on student’s learning. Prioritized feedback is easier to implement and easily digestible for students.

  1. Involvement 

Encourage student involvement in debating issues and in putting together, a remedial plan that the student has a partial role in formulating.

  1. Specific

Making feedback specific to performance or task for better, more pinpointed remedial actions from the student.

Summing Up!

Feedback is vital to help students become learners. Feedback may be offered verbally, digitally, or through traditional written comments on assignments. Whichever way it is given, feedback benefits every student and is a powerful tool to connect with them positively, provided it is personalized. How students receive, interpret, understand, analyze, discuss and act on feedback is as valuable as the quality of feedback itself. The way the students interact with feedback is the key to developing their learning process.

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