Effective Feedback

Feedback is at the core of teaching. We all need it, many of us want it, but what do we do with it? How do we get it? What purpose does it serve in our teaching? This section will address 1) giving effective and useful feedback to your students, 2) how to solicit feedback from your students along the way to aid in your teaching, and 3) using feedback you receive, both formative and summative, to improve your teaching.


Immediate Feedback: Providing feedback to students tells them how they are doing and provides suggestions for improvement. While you are teaching, you will often have to give feedback in-the-moment. For example, during an in-class discussion, while you facilitate the conversation, every time you interject to talk you are providing feedback to those conversing with you. This can be either by validating students’ contributions that are on the right track or redirecting comments that are off track or inaccurate. No matter the realm of feedback, strive to be kind, fair, and specific. Chastising a student for an off topic question will not help that student ask better questions. Instead thank the student for their contribution and then respond by reframing their comment or question. Allowing safe chances for perceived failures is critical to learning from feedback as well as to building classroom community.

Formal Feedback on Assessments: As an instructor you will usually provide feedback on assessed written or oral work. This type of feedback is often associated with marks and grading. When providing feedback, use these three principles to make feedback a teaching and learning experience.

  • Aim for quality over quantity: Avoid noting every shortcoming and instead focus on one or two things that, if improved, will effect the most change.
  • Feedback should be future-oriented: Give students concrete ways that they can improve in the discipline, not just on a specific assignment.
  • Be constructive: Provide feedback that clearly tells students how to improve.

When providing written feedback, here are a few best practices that focus feedback on the teaching and learning process. The principles outlined below refer to writing summative feedback, which is the summary of feedback you write to the student at the end of an assignment.

  1. Start by addressing the student
  2. Provide positive feedback, being as specific as you can, to let students know what they should keep doing for future assessments
  3. Suggest areas for improvement, with at least one concrete strategy to try. Make sure that it is manageable.
  4. Direct positive comments to the writer (“you did this well”) and areas for improvement to the assessment (“the assignment did not make a compelling argument”)
  5. End by signing your own name and providing a grade

This last strategy, directing positive feedback to the writer and critical feedback to the assignment can make a significant impact on the morale of the student. The TATP has a resource on “I” Statement Based Feedback that offers some sample sentences of this dichotomy of constructive and reactive feedback.

Preparing Your Teaching Team to Give Feedback: As we discussed above in section 4.3, rubrics can be a helpful way to give consistent feedback across the teaching team. As a course instructor you may perform little to no grading for a given course. If you have teaching assistants, one of their main jobs may be to mark student assignments. In these cases, take the time to talk about these principles of effective feedback with your teaching assistants. Use benchmarking sessions to discuss good summative comments and how you would like your teaching assistants to provide feedback.