How do your students know that they are actually making progress? An
absolutely essential part of any student’s development is receiving honest and
accurate feedback from their teacher.
Learning English isn’t easy and without regular feedback, students will quickly get
discouraged and give up.
It’s wise to sit with your students on their first day to make clear goals. They
should be the one making the goals and you should be the one guiding them and
asking them the right questions.
These goals should be part of their student file. They should be what you the
teacher is giving them feedback towards and occasionally referring to.
Tips for setting goals for your students learning English
What is their “North Star”? In other words, what is their ultimate goal for learning
Travel, to get promoted, to move to another country …
What is their goal for the next 30 days? This is the one that you really want to put
emphasis on and help cultivate. Remember that the first 30 days are the hardest.
Set a goal that they can and will achieve.
Simple answers like, “to speak more confidently” or “to take 2 classes per week”
are not quality goals.
The goal “to take 2 classes per week” helps to answer how they’ll achieve the
goal but not what the goal actually is.
This is where you can start guiding them right away.
Instead, ask them, “how many new words will you learn?” Or if their goal is to
travel and make foreign friends ask them, “What are you into?” – if they can’t
explain it in detail in English, then this is a great example of a short term
achievable goal. The same can be done with food, their job, their family… set
goals around things that they are into and passionate about. Make their goals
about them and not about a general textbook or curriculum.
What is a goal they want to achieve in the next 6 months? Set a measurable goal
here. If you can’t measure it, they’ll never know if they achieved it. Recording a
conversation is also a great way to keep a record and show progress.
Once you’ve established their short term and long term goals, setting something
in between is a piece of cake!
If their North Star is work related, their short and mid-term goals should reflect
that. The same goes for interests, travel, etc.
It’s easy to give up
Like going to the gym, the first days and first month are the hardest. Establishing a
routine and looking at the tough road ahead often discourages students from
I often use the gym analogy because learning English draws several good
comparisons. When people start going to the gym to lose weight, they often look
in the mirror and to their dismay they don’t see any results. Then one day, they
give into the temptation of eating the muffin or pizza and suddenly they’ve
completely given up. The next day is even harder to go to the gym.
Learning English is similar. Students take a class, study a few words then try to
listen to a song or watch a program in English only to realize how much work is
Bite-sized goals of 5 or 10 words at a time will help them tremendously. It will help
them see and feel progress.
And the same as the gym analogy, it’s often the people with a personal trainer
that get the best results. You need to be that personal trainer.
You are their teacher, motivator, coach and mentor.
What is “quality” feedback?
There is verbal feedback and written feedback. Giving students both types is
equally important. Often written feedback can summarize some or all of the things
that you covered in class.
If you are teaching classes online via Skype or Zoom or another platform, it’s
good practice to pause and message them feedback. It will show them that you’re
listening to what they’re saying.
Take notes during the class. Do NOT rely on your memory! Taking notes of
mistakes will make the feedback process 3 painless and rewarding minutes
instead of 15 painful minutes of trying to recollect what they said.
Also include a variety of feedback: vocabulary, grammar, intonation,
pronunciation, sentence structure, etc.
Effective feedback should be:
It’s essential to give honest feedback. Include a balance of positive and
constructive comments. Too much positive feedback can sound insincere, while
excessive constructive comments can be perceived as negative and cause self-
doubt. Constructive feedback will encourage students to think critically about how
they can improve. Give concrete examples of what they said and how they could
or should have said it.
Phrase your comments like:
- Great job with … (what exactly did the student do/say?)
- You used the perfect expression to talk about/express … (what exactly did the
- You’ve made great improvement with … (what exactly have they made great
- Don’t forget to … (what exactly was the problem?)
- Remember to … (what exactly was the problem?)
- It will help you to review … (what exactly was the problem?)
It’s important to give students timely feedback. What is “timely”? Within 12 hours
of them taking their class is in most cases considered timely. Giving students
feedback more than 24 hours after the class won’t have the same impact or
effect. It needs to be when it’s still fresh in their minds in order to motivate them.
3. Meaningful and Specific
Quality feedback should target individual needs. You need to focus on the skills
that each student needs to improve. Too much feedback is discouraging and will
just overwhelm your students. Choose 3 things that they can improve on and
make them specific.
For example, “You said, ‘He’s going friend house.’ – The correct way to say this is,
‘He’s going to his friend’s house.’ – Remember ‘going to’ and ‘his’ – Make 10
sentences with ‘going to’ and send them to me before next class.”
Note also how I gave them a specific task and not a general. Guide them and tell
them exactly what they need to do.
Feedback will help your students in several ways and will help you retain them
both short and long-term.
Helps to improve performance
How motivated students continue to be is mostly dependent on learning
outcomes. An excellent way to gauge this is by evaluating students. Feedback is
an integral part of how much effort they put forth between now and the next class.
It helps students understand and work on the things they aren’t good at. It’s a
written record that you can both refer back to and something they’ll actively try to
improve on each class.
Source of quality information
Teachers play a vital role in enhancing the overall learning experience. They help
to detect mistakes and highlight the key areas that require improvement. They are
a source of external feedback, support and motivation.
Positive feedback should result in a feeling that encourages the student to keep
learning. It should motivate students and make them feel like they’re progressing.
Offering constructive and clear feedback can help to optimize students learning
potential. You are their teacher and they trust you.
Gives them a sense of gratification
Everyone loves to feel valued and appreciated. Think of how your students will
react to your comment. If it is constructive feedback, it will encourage the student
to perform better. Feedback is also in itself an accomplishment. Students will feel
gratified when seeing and feeling progress. Your feedback will keep them inspired
to continue learning.
Keeping all of these things in mind when giving feedback will help you motivate
your students take more lessons but also to continue.
Check out Pocket Passport’s feedback and evaluation and counseling tools. They
make everything easier, more organized and help ensure that your students keep