Background. Feedback is one of the most powerful tools, which teachers can use to enhance student learning. It appears difficult for teachers to give qualitatively good feedback, especially during active learning. In this context, teachers should provide facilitative feedback that is focused on the development of meta-cognition and social learning.
Aims. The purpose of the present study is to contribute to the existing knowledge about feedback and to give directions to improve teacher feedback in the context of active learning.
Sample. The participants comprised 32 teachers who practiced active learning in the domain of environmental studies in the sixth, seventh, or eighth grade of 13 Dutch primary schools. A total of 1,465 teacher–student interactions were examined.
Methods. Video observations were made of active learning lessons in the domain of environmental studies. A category system was developed based on the literature and empirical data. Teacher–student interactions were assessed using this system.
Results. About half of the teacher–student interactions contained feedback. This feedback was usually focused on the tasks that were being performed by the students and on the ways in which these tasks were processed. Only 5% of the feedback was explicitly related to a learning goal. In their feedback, the teachers were directing (rather than facilitating) the learning processes.
Conclusions. During active learning, feedback on meta-cognition and social learning is important. Feedback should be explicitly related to learning goals. In practice, these kinds of feedback appear to be scarce. Therefore, giving feedback during active learning seems to be an important topic for teachers’ professional development.