The Power of Mastery-Oriented Feedback

Updated: Mar 29

By Shawna Audet

There is no doubt about it, reading remediation lessons require a high level of engagement from students. Students often leave their first few lessons feeling physically exhausted. One way that I help my students to build engagement stamina is that I provide them with mastery-oriented feedback. Mastery-oriented feedback encourages students to use specific supports when they face a challenge, emphasizes effort and improvement, is timely, and is informative rather than comparative. When I teach reading remediation lessons, using the Dyslexia Training Institute program, all these qualities are built into every lesson.

The first element of mastery-oriented feedback - encouraging students to use specific supports - is something that I teach through the use of "blocking strategies." Blocking strategies are specific steps that students are taught to use to when they encounter a problem. Blocking strategies are unique to each of the different types of the daily drills that we do in a lesson. For example, when doing the phonemic awareness drill, the students are instructed to “tap it and then say it” when they have trouble pushing the different sounds (phonemes) together to make a word. When students have trouble remembering a specific phoneme or grapheme is the visual and auditory drills, they are taught to attach a key word to the sound to help them remember it. When struggling to write a word, students are taught to use the finger tapping method in which they tap the sounds on their hand with their fingers first and then try to write it. After writing a sentence, students are taught to use C.H.O.P.S. to check their own work. C.H.O.P.S. stands for “capital, handwriting, read out loud, punctuation, and spelling.” Providing ways for students to overcome challenges on their own to check their own work is empowering and actively engages them in their learning.

Other types of master-oriented feedback that students receive during all reading remediation lessons is feedback that emphasizes improvement, and is specific and timely. When students provide an incorrect answer, I do not say, “No.” I avoid this word because students have heard it too many times in their lives and it can make them shut down. Instead, I ask a probing question. For example, I might ask, “What type of syllable is “tap”?” If the student replies incorrectly by saying, “It is an open syllable.” then I ask a series of probing questions to help the student think their way to the correct answer. Here are some of the questions that I might ask:

How many vowels are in the word?

Is the vowel at the beginning, middle, or end of the word?

What sound is the vowel making? Is it long or short?

The process of having the student use my questions to think their way through to the right answer is one that provides instant feedback that is highly specific. It is also great because it places emphasize on the thinking process.