The text below is a summary of the research evidence on the impact of Feedback on the educational attainment of school pupils in sub-Saharan Africa. It is an analysis of individual studies of feedback in sub-Saharan Africa. The information here is valuable for African school leaders, administrators and policy makers. It is even more valuable for parents who maybe thinking of better ways to improve on the educational attainment of their children.
Effective Basic Services (eBASE) Africa developed this summary using available research evidence while also taking into consideration prominent themes arising from key informant interviews (KII) and focus group discussions (FGD), particularly FGD with teachers and students. This implies the presence and participation of all key stakeholders; the policy makers, the implementers or enforcers of policy and the beneficiaries. The research evidence in this summary is acquired from a detailed and replicable search protocol used on a wide range – listed below – of research databases for related studies in low- and middle-income countries in general and sub-Saharan Africa in particular.
Definition of the strand
The primary purpose of providing feedback is to reduce the gap between learners’ current knowledge and skills, and the desired curriculum learning outcomes. It is information given to the learner and/or teacher about the learner’s performance relative to learning goals. Feedback should aim to and possess the capability of improving learning (Higgins, et al., 2016).
Research Evidence in Sub-Saharan Africa
Between 1990 – 2015, there not many high-quality studies, reviews or impact evaluations on diagnostic feedback carried out in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). There are however, a few quantitative and qualitative studies on the impact of feedback on learning outcomes in some SSA countries. This is relevant for providing orientation to teachers on the kind of feedback mechanisms that have proven useful within different contexts in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The role of teachers in improving educational outcomes has been a subject of discussion in education research literature in SSA. Post-independence, the education milieu in many SSA countries was dominated by persistent poor teaching practices such as chalk-and-talk, teacher-centred pedagogy, with calls for a shift towards a learner-centred pedagogy (UNESCO, 2004). A study on the Formative Assessment Professional Development Programme (FAPDP) was tested through a randomized controlled trial (RCT) in South Africa. The results indicated that when teachers provide learners with motivational comments of encouragement as well as detailed comments on how to improve their work, more teachers in fee-paying schools expected learners to ‘be happy’, while more teachers in no-fee schools expected learners ‘to improve’. This shows how teachers view their written feedback practices (Kanjee, 2018). Similarly, Ngwenya (2019) notes that accounting teachers in a rural South African community affirmed the need for learners’ responses to feedback, as it indicates the learners’ understanding or lack thereof of what is required of them. Teachers use feedback to support learners and allow them learn from their mistakes by identifying individuals in need of assistance and creating time for further explanation. A quasi-experimental study, using the Assessment for Learning (AFL) approach suggests it is an effective approach for providing feedback. Learners taught using the AFL, scored high especially in science subjects than those who were taught with the the normal routine instruction from class (Oyinloye & Sitwala, 2019).
Some studies have highlighted the challenges to implementing proper feedback in SSA. According to Ngwenya (2019), accounting teachers in some rural South African communities indicated that the time allocated to teach accounting and attend to learners’ challenges was inadequate, and offering extra lessons is impossible due to long distances some learners had to cover back home. To Salzano & Labate (2016), the African context characterised by large class sizes coupled with time constraints impeded the implementation of learner-centred, differentiated and corrective learning pedagogies. As such, individual feedback sessions with learners in difficulties are rare. Likewise, Naylor & Sayed (2014), Moloi & Kanjee, (2017) explains that inadequate teacher preparation and support, large classrooms, lack of resources and entrenched cultural and pedagogical practices hamper the process of changing teaching styles in Africa. Govender (2019) argues that some teachers in South Africa who have completed Assessment for Learning trainings experience difficulties integrating formative assessment in their daily practice. This is because of the emphasis on ‘assessment’ rather than a pedagogy that is the focus of learning.
The available evidence on feedback practices in Sub-Saharan Africa comes from Southern Africa, particularly South Africa where feedback interventions have captured teachers’ expectations from written feedback and teachers’ experiences with communal feedback in rural communities. Teachers’ expectations from written feedback vary with the school status (fee paying and no-fee schools). In addition, teachers approved the need for feedback in rural communities, which is used to support learners based on their needs hence improving learning outcomes.
Other studies have identified major impediments to effective feedback in SSA like inadequate time allocated for teaching and attending to learners, large class sizes, lack of capacity, inadequate teacher preparation and lack of teaching and learning resources.
A joint publication by the World Bank and the Agence Française du Développement states that between 1990 – 2015, feedback was amongst the education interventions with no impact evaluations or high-quality studies in Sub-Saharan Africa (Bashir, Lockhead, Ninan, & Tan, 2018). Due to the global evidence of positive learning outcomes for feedback, it would be important to carry out further research in Sub-Saharan Africa on feedback practices to fully ascertain its impact on learning within this context.
Impact, Security, and Cost of Local Evidence
The available evidence investigating the impact of feedback in SSA suggests a positive association between feedback and educational outcomes. The evidence is however limited hence the need for more robust studies.
The cost of implementing a feedback scheme in SSA, particularly in the Lake Chad Basin is likely to be moderate.
School feedback, Assessment for learning, individual feedback, collective feedback, communal feedback, assessment feedback, formative assessment, learner-centred pedagogy, corrective learning pedagogy, diagnostic feedback, constructive feedback, individual attention, formative pedagogy, classroom-based assessment, Sub Saharan Africa
Open Knowledge Repository
3ie Evidence Portal
EBSCO (BEL, Education Abstract, Education Administration Abstract)
Taylor and Francis (Education Research Abstract)
Bashir, S., Lockhead, M., Ninan, E., & Tan, J.-P. (2018). Facing Forward: Schooling for Learning in Africa. Washington DC: The World Bank.
Govender, P. (2019). Formative assessment as ‘formative pedagogy’ in Grade 3 mathematics. South African Journal of Childhood Education 9 (1).
Higgins, S., Katsipataki, M., Villanueva-Aguilera, A., Coleman, R., Henderson, P., Major, L., … Mason, D. (2016). The Sutton Trust-Education Endowment Foundation Teaching and Learning Toolkit. Durham Research Online, 56.
Kanjee, A. (2018). Teacher Expectations and Feedback Practices in South African Schools. In A. A. Lipnevich, & J. K. Smith, The Cambridge Handbook of Instructional Feedback. London : Cambridge University Press.
Moloi, M., & Kanjee, A. (2017). Beyond test scores: A framework for reporting mathematis assessment results to enhance teaching and learning. Journal of the Associatin for Mathematis Educatin of South Africa.
Naylor, R., & Sayed, Y. (2014). Teacher quality: evidence review. Canberra: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Ngwenya, J. (2019). Accounting teachers’ experiences of communal feedback in rural South Africa. South African Journal of Education, 39 (2).
Oyinloye, O. M., & Sitwala, I. N. (2019). The Impact of Assessment for Learning on Learner Performance in Life Science. EURASIA Journal of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education.
Salzano, C., & Labate , H. (2016). Teaching policies and learning outcomes in Sub-Saharan Africa. Addis Ababa: UNESCO IICBA.
UNESCO. (2004). Education for All: The Quality Imperative. EFA Global Monitoring Report 2005. .
Paris: UNESCO Publishing .