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Critical Role of Feedback


The role of feedback for learners is critical in advancing language proficiency.  Feedback should be provided in multiple forms including formative, summative and self-assessment.  It should be specific, timely, spoken or written, and most importantly, relevant to learning goals and the targeted level of proficiency.  The educator’s role is to determine a learner’s current level of proficiency, plan the next steps, and offer formative feedback and strategies to further language acquisition.  The key is to give learners what they need in a timely fashion to improve and not to overwhelm them with too much feedback.

  • Formative feedback is designed to assess learners’ progress toward learning targets during the learning process. 
  • Summative feedback provides an assessment of student performance at the end of a learning cycle (unit, semester, program).
  • Reflective feedback invites learners to play an active role in self-evaluation of their performance.  This self-assessment provides learners the opportunity to make the changes necessary to improve their language performance.


Giving appropriate feedback promotes student ownership and builds confidence as learners can identify those areas of strength and those areas of needed improvement.  Learners can use formative feedback and instructor-provided strategies to make changes that impact their language performance.  Without prompt feedback, learners are disconnected from the task and not motivated to improve. Learner self-assessment and reflection require learners to focus on their own learning, comparing their current performance with their past performance in order to reach their proficiency level targets. (To learn more about these targets see NCSSFL-ACTFL Can Do Statements, ACTFL Performance Descriptors for Language Learners.) 


Teachers should utilize feedback strategies throughout instruction to assess and inform learners of progress towards proficiency goals.  Feedback can be oral or written and can be given in a variety of ways.

Formative Feedback (on-going feedback to improve language skills)

  • Teacher-provided and/or teacher-guided
  • Consistent, timely and specific
  • Relevant to learning targets based on a learner’s current level of proficiency
  • Descriptive
  • Provided in student-friendly language (free of jargon)

Summative Feedback (feedback on an end assessment)

  • Teacher-provided and/or teacher-guided
  • Given at the end of a learning sequence
  • Measurement of a learner’s current language performance
  • Evaluative

Reflective Feedback (self-assessment)

  • Teacher designed, but learner-driven
  • Opportunities occur at the beginning of, during, and after a learning sequence
  • Develops learner awareness of language skills and current level of performance
  • Demonstrated through a variety of ways including, but not limited to:
    • Portfolios
    • Learner-written reflection of a specific performance
    • Surveys, questionnaires (Google forms)
    • Peer-assessments, co-constructed evaluations
    • Class discussion
    • One-on-one informal conversations or conferences
    • Formative checks, such as exit slips or stamp sheets 

Technology can be used to support feedback.  There are myriad options that could include:

  • Google Drive to create a portfolio
  • Survey and questionnaire forms to assess progress toward learning targets, comprehension of interpretive mode, self-check as students prepare presentational mode
  • Video- or audio-recording of a task to self-evaluate
  • Blogging or shared forum (i.e., Google chat) for peer or co-constructed discussion
  • Immediate feedback via technology (online practice that offers automatic feedback)
  • LinguaFolio®

Find Out More:

El Tatawy, M. (2002). Corrective Feedback in Second Language Acquisition. Retrieved from

Glisan, E.W. (2016). Core Practices for Effective Language Learning [Webinars]. Retrieved from

Popham, W. J. (2008). Transformative Assessment. Retrieved from,-What,-and-Whether.aspx

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