Principles for Building Effective Feedback Loops – Digital Promise

Principles for Building Effective Feedback Loops

Feedback loops illustration, showing four faces in a circle with arrows pointing in all directions.

December 7, 2023 | By

How do we get insights to the people that need them the most?

This statement has guided Digital Promise’s research into the design of successful feedback loops over the last two years, as we’ve explored ways that different communities can collaborate to improve education. Whether something as commonplace as curriculum adoption in a district, or as unique as a research hub, considering how parties might contribute to and benefit from their interactions will lead to higher-quality insights shared among participants. Through research and pilots with communities of researchers, practitioners, and edtech product developers, we have identified four principles we believe will promote education innovation and transformation through the creation of better feedback loops.

Feedback Loop:

An interaction between two or more parties that is purposeful, bidirectional, and iterative and transforms the knowledge, actions, or goals of the engaged parties.

Four Principles For Designing Feedback Loops

Design for Mutual Benefit
Ensuring mutual benefit via changes in knowledge, actions, or goals is a key component to creating successful projects that create impactful outputs and meaningful change for the participants. Engaging participants in project activities in a bidirectional manner means they can participate more purposefully and share their authentic priorities and needs.

Find a Facilitator
In our pilot work with research, product, and practice communities, each identified that a dedicated and trusted third-party facilitator would be a welcome addition to any project that worked across their areas of expertise. A facilitator can work across communities and empower them to influence the direction of the work.

Attend to Continuity, Consensus, and Customization
In a design convening where researchers, edtech product developers, and practitioners prototyped cross-community feedback loops, we heard clearly that educators deal with a lack of continuity in the products they use, missing consensus among levels of the school systems in which they work, and insufficient flexibility to build and create for their particular student needs. In response, they suggested that feedback loops should encompass more of their school community, such as parents, administrators, and technology departments, which strengthens the use of learning technology.

Lean into the Tension
Tension in cross-community collaborations is natural, and a result of misalignment between the rules, objectives, and contexts of participants. However, this tension provides an opportunity to innovate and should be approached with curiosity. Our pilot participants identified many tensions between research, product, and practice, such as varying time cycles, capacity to scale and support many students, and long-term sustainability, and were able to design to address them.

Looking at the Future of Teaching and Learning with Technology

In the last year, we’ve seen a rapid evolution in edtech with public-facing generative AI. Given the black box nature of AI, it is imperative to bring more research and practitioner experience into the product development space to ensure its safe and secure use, and that its value to learning matches the hype. Initiatives like Research Practice Industry Partnerships, which embody the feedback loop principles, are the types of approaches the sector will need to build tools that improve student learning and well-being and enhance teachers’ practice, while being broadly adoptable. Use the resources below to reflect on your role in the future of teaching and learning with technology.

Want to know more about feedback loops? Find more resources here:

We’d like to thank the following design convening participants:

  • Research: Benji Xie, Erin Walker, Lin Lin Lipsmeyer, Nicole Hutchins, Jimmy Lin
  • Product: Hee jin Bang, Logan De Ley, Megan Conrad, Mary Gurley, Lindsay Marczak
  • Practice: Cassandra Kelley, Aida Hadzovic, Kay Marquez, Emily Jensen, and Pam Rabin

We would also like to thank Judi Fusco and Merjike Coenraad for their contributions to the feedback loops research.

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