Feedback Spirals



Art Costa and Bena Kallick,


Institute for Habits of Mind, Westport, CT

We want students to value feedback a they become spectators of their own growth. Building from both internal and external data sources, reflections and observations, rich and challenging learning activities provide opportunities to build the skills of monitoring and self-assessing performance and growth of dispositions. While feedback from teachers serves as a rich data source, teachers also want students to become even more self-evaluative and metacognitive about their own awareness, performance and evaluation of their own dispositions. (Ferreter. 2012)

This recursive process may be described as a feedback spiral. The intent of feedback spirals is to help students self-regulate. These spirals depend on a variety of information for their success. In some cases, individuals make changes after consciously observing their own feelings, attitudes, and skills. Some spirals depend on the observations of outsiders (such as “critical friends”). Once these data are analyzed, interpreted, and internalized, individuals modify their actions to more closely achieve their own desired performance goals or behaviors. Thus, learners are continually self-learning, self-renewing, and self-modifying.

Each element along the spiral is described below: (Costa and Kallick, 2004 p 9)


  • Clarify goals and purposes. What are the purposes for what you are doing? What beliefs or values do they reflect? What outcomes would you expect as a result of your actions?
  • Plan. What actions would you take to achieve the desired outcomes? How would you set up an experiment to test your ideas? What evidence would you collect to help inform you about the results of your actions? What would you look for as indicators your outcomes were or were not achieved? How will you leave the door open for other discoveries and possibilities that were not built into the original design? What process will you put in place that will help you describe what actually happened?
  • Take action/experiment. Execute the plan.
  • Assess/gather evidence. Implement assessment strategy.
  • Study, reflect, evaluate. Whether this is an individual or organizational change, how are the results congruent with stated values? What meaning can be made of the data? Who might serve as a critical friend to coach, facilitate, or mediate your learning from this experience? What have individuals learned from this action?
  • Modify actions based on new knowledge. What will be done differently in the future as a result of reflection and integration of new knowledge? Is this plan worth trying again?
  • Revisit and clarify goals and purposes. Do the goals still make sense? Are they still of value, or do they need to be redefined, refocused, or refined? This element returns to the first step in the spiral: clarify goals and purposes.



Costa, A. and Kallick B. (2004) Assessment Strategies for Self-Directed Learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin


Ferriter. B. (May 10, 2012) @Shareski’s Right: My Students Can Assess Themselves! The Tempered Radical