Dr. Koenka looks at teaching strategy for middle schoolers

Spotlight on SOE faculty research

Alison Koenka Tall
Dr. Alison Koenka

The amount of knowledge being generated by VCU School of Education faculty in published research goes beyond merely enhancing the school’s reputation – it is helping to shape the future of education itself. One recent example of this is the study below, co-authored by Dr. Alison Koenka, assistant professor in the Department of Foundations of Education, which looks at personalized feedback as a teaching strategy for improving motivation and performance among middle school students.


Dr. Alison Koenka, assistant professor of educational psychology, and co-author Eric Anderman explored the effects of the nature of the feedback teachers provide their students, and the extent to which it is personalized, on learning and motivation. Personalized feedback is especially important for middle school students as they often experience a decline in motivation and performance during the transition from elementary to middle school. Therefore, personalized feedback, or “specific, student-centered information delivered to students about their academic performance in a motivationally optimal manner,” is a vital strategy that middle school educators can use to support their students’ learning and motivation.

The authors discuss four principles of effective personalized feedback:

  1. it should be specific;
  2. it should be task-focused, self-referenced, and identify next steps;
  3. it should avoid comparing a student’s performance to that of their peers; and
  4. it should avoid focusing on personal characteristics that students may perceive as unchangeable.

The authors also discuss the use of technology to enhance the aforementioned personalized feedback strategies, including editing features within word processing programs such as track changes and comment boxes, and live-streamed video communication systems such as Skype. The use of technology allows middle school teachers to deliver immediate feedback to their students and parents while also allowing the students to visually track their progress over time, two essential aspects in adolescent learning.


Koenka, A.C. & Anderman, E.M. (2019). Personalized feedback as a strategy for improving motivation and performance among middle school students. Middle School Journal, 50(5), 15-22. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00940771.2019.1674768