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51 Constructive Feedback Examples for Students

Constructive feedback is feedback that helps students learn and grow.

Even though it highlights students’ weaknesses, it is not negative feedback because it has a purpose. It is designed to help them identify areas for improvement.

It serves both as an example of positive reinforcement and a reminder that there is always room for further improvement. Studies show that students generally like feedback that points them in the right direction and helps them to improve. It can also increase motivation for students.

Why Give Constructive Feedback?

Constructive feedback is given to help students improve. It can help people develop a growth mindset by helping them understand what they need to do to improve.

It can also help people to see that their efforts are paying off and that they can continue to grow and improve with continued effort.

Additionally, constructive feedback helps people to feel supported and motivated to keep working hard. It shows that we believe in their ability to grow and succeed and that we are willing to help them along the way.

How to Give Constructive Feedback

Generally, when giving feedback, it’s best to:

  • Make your feedback specific to the student’s work
  • Point out areas where the student showed effort and where they did well
  • Offer clear examples of how to improve
  • Be positive about the student’s prospects if they put in the hard work to improve
  • Encourage the student to ask questions if they don’t understand your feedback

Furthermore, it is best to follow up with students to see if they have managed to implement the feedback provided.

General Constructive Feedback Examples for Students

The below examples are general templates that need to be edited so they are specific to the student’s work.

1. You are on the right track. By starting to study for the exam earlier, you may be able to retain more knowledge on exam day.

2. I have seen your improvement over time. As a next step, it is a good idea to…

3. You have improved a lot and should start to look towards taking on harder tasks for the future to achieve more self-development.

4. You have potential and should work on your weaknesses to achieve better outcomes. One area for improvement is…

5. Keep up the good work! You will see better results in the future if you make the effort to attend our study groups more regularly.

6. You are doing well, but there is always room for improvement. Try these tips to get better results: …

7. You have made some good progress, but it would be good to see you focusing harder on the assignment question so you don’t misinterpret it next time.

8. Your efforts are commendable, but you could still do better if you provide more specific examples in your explanations.

9. You have done well so far, but don’t become complacent – there is always room for improvement! I have noticed several errors in your notes, including…

10. It is great that you are trying your best, but don’t stop here – keep pushing yourself to get even better results. It would be good to see you editing your work to remove the small errors creeping into your work…

11. You have put in a lot of hard work, and it is starting to show. One area for improvement is your tone of voice, which sometimes comes across too soft. Don’t be afraid to project your voice next time.

12. You are making good progress, but don’t forget to focus on your weaknesses too. One weakness to focus on is…

13. Your efforts are commendable, but it would have been good to have seen you focus throughout as your performance waned towards the end of the session.

15. While your work is good, I feel you are becoming complacent – keep looking for ways to improve. For example, it would be good to see you concentrating harder on providing critique of the ideas explored in the class.

16. It is great that you are trying your best, but don’t stop here – keep pushing yourself to get even better results! Try to improve your handwriting by slowing down and focusing on every single letter.

17. You have put in a lot of hard work, and it is starting to show. Keep up the good work and you will see your grades slowly grow more and more. I’d like to see you improving your vocabulary for future pieces.

18. You are making good progress, but don’t forget to focus on your weaknesses too. One weakness to focus on is…

19. You have potential and should work on your using more appropriate sources to achieve better outcomes. As a next step, it is a good idea to…

Constructive Feedback for an Essay

1. Your writing style is good but you need to use more academic references in your paragraphs.

2. While you have reached the required word count, it would be good to focus on making sure every paragraph addresses the essay question.

3. You have a good structure for your essay, but you could improve your grammar and spelling.

4. You have made some good points, but you could develop them further by using more examples.

5. Your essay is well-written, but it would be helpful to provide more analysis of the topic.

6. You have answered the question well, but you could improve your writing style by being more concise.

7. Excellent job! You have covered all the key points and your writing is clear and concise.

8. There are a few errors in your essay, but overall it is well-written and easy to understand.

9. There are some mistakes in terms of grammar and spelling, but you have some good ideas worth expanding on.

10. Your essay is well-written, but it needs more development in terms of academic research and evidence.

11. You have done a great job with what you wrote, but you missed a key part of the essay question.

12. The examples you used were interesting, but you could have elaborated more on their relevance to the essay.

13. There are a few errors in terms of grammar and spelling, but your essay is overall well-constructed.

14. Your essay is easy to understand and covers all the key points, but you could use more evaluative language to strengthen your argument.

15. You have provided a good thesis statement , but the examples seem overly theoretical. Are there some practical examples that you could provide?

Constructive Feedback for Student Reports

1. You have worked very hard this semester. Next semester, work on being more consistent with your homework.

2. You have improved a lot this semester, but you need to focus on not procrastinating.

3. You are doing well in most subjects, but you could improve your grades by paying more attention in class and completing all your homework.

4. You are doing well in most subjects, but you could still improve your grades by studying more and asking for help when you don’t understand something.

5. You have shown great improvement this semester, keep up the good work! However, you might want to focus on improving your test scores by practicing more.

6. You have made some good progress this semester, but you need to continue working hard if you want to get good grades next year when the standards will rise again.

7. Next semester, focus on completing all your homework on time and paying more attention in class.

8. You have worked hard this semester, but you could still improve your grades by taking your time rather than racing through the work.

9. Next semester, focus on completing all your homework in advance so you have time to check it over before submission.

10. While you usually understand the instructions, don’t forget to ask for help when you don’t understand something rather than guessing.

11. You have shown great improvement this semester, but you need to focus some more on being self-motivated rather than relying on me to keep you on task.

Constructive feedback on Homework

1. While most of your homework is great, you missed a few points in your rush to complete it. Next time, slow down and make sure your work is thorough.

2. You put a lot of effort into your homework, and it shows. However, make sure to proofread your work for grammar and spelling mistakes.

3. You did a great job on this assignment, but try to be more concise in your writing for future assignments.

4. This homework is well-done, but you could have benefited from more time spent on research.

5. You have a good understanding of the material, but try to use more examples in your future assignments.

6. You completed the assignment on time and with great accuracy. I noticed you didn’t do the extension tasks. I’d like to see you challenging yourself in the future.

Related Articles

  • Examples of Feedback for Teachers
  • 75 Formative Assessment Examples

Giving and receiving feedback is an important part of any learning process. All feedback needs to not only grade work, but give advice on next steps so students can learn to be lifelong learners. By providing constructive feedback, we can help our students to iteratively improve over time. It can be challenging to provide useful feedback, but by following the simple guidelines and examples outlined in this article, I hope you can provide comments that are helpful and meaningful.


Chris Drew (PhD)

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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2 thoughts on “51 Constructive Feedback Examples for Students”

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Very helpful to see so much great developmental feedback with so many different examples.

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Great examples of constructive feedback, also has reinforced on the current approach i take.

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student assignment feedback example

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Examples of Feedback on Student Writing

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As an undergraduate, my first writing assignment in Jim Faulconer’s philosophy of religion course changed me. More specifically, it was the feedback on my first paper. The combination of what I thought an abysmally low grade and margins drenched in the red of electronic comments felt as though academic open season had been declared on me personally. I was devastated. Following a period of self-indulgent mourning I forced myself to read through Faulconer’s comments and realized that he had undermined the possibility of consoling myself by blaming him. Overall, I experienced a genuine aporia and ultimately took advantage of the opportunity to re-write my paper.

This has remained with me, and to the degree possible within the specific constraints of each class, I make revision, feedback, personal interaction, and the opportunity to rewrite central to class assignments. The attempt is to allow the student, wherever they are in their progression as a writer, to improve, and especially to improve in their ability to narrow in on and articulate a well-supported argument.

One of the real challenges then, is to offer feedback for students at very different levels. In order to see my efforts at work, I’ve copied below actual feedback that I’ve given—two on papers I considered “A” quality, one on a paper that I considered well below average, and additional, general feedback given to an entire class after grading their papers. When grading student papers I make in-margin comments throughout and then articulate my overall feedback at the bottom. Additionally, I compose a document with general feedback for the entire class based on positive and negative trends in the papers submitted. You’ll notice in the examples below that my attempt is always to state concretely what’s working well and specific ways in which both this particular draft and also their writing more generally might be improved. In doing so, I try to impart to my students that their work, whatever its quality, is always a work in progress.

Feedback on superior papers Feedback on an inadequate paper General feedback for a class

From superior papers:

Dear Student,

You have a clever argument. Importantly, you build in very plausible objections to your claims and then seek to respond to those objections. Your three points of criticism build very well on each other, and you end with a satisfying resolution. As noted throughout, the biggest weakness of the paper is the occasional lack of clarity. I suspect that a lot of this has to do with the difficulties of writing in a second language. I encourage you to avail yourself of the writing center. Also, as noted, your opening needs to be more clear. Don’t worry about giving away your main point upfront – in philosophy that’s a good thing. Finally, it’s significant that you overlook Sen’s comments on comparing in the absence of an ideal standard.

I’m impressed with your ability to write concisely. Not only did you fulfill the assignment, you also wrote a long-ish intro and answered questions that went beyond the prompt. Doing so within the word limit and doing it well deserves recognition. One result is that outside of the opening paragraph the entire essay is focused exclusively on the arguments –there’s no excess fat in this essay. Given the nature of the assignment, that’s great. As noted throughout, however, some of your specific arguments need developed –your paper would’ve been better served had you eliminated one of the arguments in order to better develop the others along the lines mentioned in my comments above. Overall, it’s clear that you understand each of the philosophers you address and you present interesting ideas.

From an inadequate paper:

The following was written in response to a student in a first year writing class. Both the nature of the class and its small size facilitated more substantive feedback than is always possible. My comments below, however, are indicative of the tone and approach I take toward papers I consider to be significantly inadequate.

Dear Student

As noted above, you do well “synthesizing”several insights from multiple studies as you make different points, rather than flatly summarizing one study at a time. I’ve tried to make clear in my comments the things that I think you can do to strengthen this paper and your writing in general. Specifically, I want to emphasize the following:

  • Argument. This is critical. Your paper is almost exclusively a report of various points of consensus among the authors you cite. This does not meet the specifications of the assignment. What’s needed is to utilize this ability –the ability to extract important and overlapping ideas from the literature –in the service of your own independent argument. A clear and specific thesis sentence stated up top will help you to organize and tie together the various parts of your paper. The conclusion section should also help to do the same thing. Your conclusion here is a bookend, bringing up the same (or at least a similar) point as the one you began with concerning the different kinds of attraction that exist. More than just a bookend, however, you want your conclusion to be in the service of your argument. It should both summarize and highlight the most important points you’ve tried to establish in the body of your paper and state how these points support your thesis. At each stage, however, ask yourself –how does this support my argument? Is this fact clear to my reader?
  • Structure. Some of the different sections and points you’re making in the paper are clearly flagged for the reader with transition words. Remember, however, that the paper is not just a list of points. This is closely related to my comment on argument. At any given point in the paper it should not only be clear to the reader what you’re saying but also why you’re saying it. Transition language needs to be accompanied by explicitly tying together or explaining the relationship between the different sections of the paper. Doing so is an important way to highlight your overall argument and make the paper cohere.
  • Counterargument. As discussed in the assignment, a critical part of your argument is exploring a counterargument. Either in making specific claims to support your thesis or after articulating your argument, consider countervailing evidence or interpretive frameworks or objections to your reasons and conclusions. Doing so will strengthen your case. This is not just true when attempting to make your own argument, but is also an important element of explicating the academic dialogue for your reader. If all of the authors you cite were locked in a room would they all agree on the question you’re exploring? Help your reader to understand the tensions, contradictions and questions that are left in the wake of their studies. Then argue for why –given these tensions, contradictions and questions –your reader ought to side with your own claims.
  • Proofreading. The host of punctuation and grammar errors, along with the frequently awkward phrasing of the paper makes it read like a first draft. This is very distracting and inhibits your ability to keep the attention of the reader or convince the reader of your point.

Again, the paper shows a good grasp of some of the basic points made in the literature, weaving together a number of overlapping ideas. I’m confident in your ability to improve.

General feedback:

The following is an example of the general feedback given in the wake of a recent “ ordinary ” paper assignment. Although given in response to a specific set of papers, it models the type of general feedback I give:

  • First, make sure it’s free of errors—typographical, stylistic, or substantive. Poor grammar, misspelled words, and inaccurate statements are impression killers.
  • Likewise, avoid trite opening lines — generic or obvious statements that usually say little more than “ I don ’ t know how to begin my paper, but I have to say something. ” For example, “Throughout history, people have argued about ethics,”or “Different people have different ideas about the value of the environment”are trite openers and should be avoided.
  • In your opening, above everything else, you want to make it clear to your reader what your paper is going to be about. A clear, easy to pick out thesis sentence is crucial . Since the thesis sentence is the most important part of your opening, make sure it’s as polished and articulate a sentence as you can make it. The thesis ought to tell your reader exactly what you will be arguing in your paper. In addition, it ought to give the reader some hint about why you ’ re going to argue that way . Note the difference in the following thesis sentences from your peers: “In this paper, I will argue that religion provides a better basis for Leopold’s land ethic than the philosophers we studied;”and “Despite a sophisticated argument that successfully disarms many of the attacks typically used to support human superiority, Taylor’s biocentric theory of equality is simply too radical to adequately serve as a land ethic.”The first example states clearly what will be argued in the paper. The second example does so as well but also clues the reader in and sets the tone of and expectations for the paper. It gives the reader more specifics and serves as a better standard against which one can judge the success of the paper.
  • First, remember that (as noted in the assignment) you’re not simply giving me an argument in support of your thesis; you’re also dealing with the argument of a philosopher. A very common mistake made was to merely state a philosopher ’ s conclusion and then either argue against or in support of it. Remember, you must actually present the philosopher ’ s argument in favor of the thesis and then address THAT . And remember that there is an important difference between listing premises and explaining the argument.
  • A common logical problem is to assume that if two positions or theories have a number of important, identifiable similarities, then they must be compatible or largely the same. Most theories we look at in this class will have plenty of readily identifiable, important similarities. This doesn ’ t mean either that they argue for the same thing or that they are compatible . For instance, if I focus only on things like belief in representative government, commitment to liberty, honoring the principles of America’s founding fathers, belief in transparency, fundamental desire to benefit the American people, and the like, I can give my audience the impression that U.S. President Barak Obama and his opponent Governor Mitt Romney have views that are perfectly compatible. This is a common strategy taken in polemical debates, and you see it used in popular media all the time (another, more entertaining/offensive example, is when people use this strategy to convince you that certain political figures are “just like”Hitler). But it certainly doesn’t prove anything. Once again, by giving the philosopher ’ s overall argument , you’re (more honestly) enabling your reader to judge and evaluate your own argument.
  • Many of your papers would be improved by narrowing in on one specific part of the philosopher’s argument—for example, you might highlight and attack or defend a key premise. Many of you made very high-altitude and general criticisms but struggled (especially given the space constraints) to grapple with specific aspects of an argument.
  • A number of papers were tempted to take something of a broadside approach: that is, they gave a list of every specific claim that they could pick out that the philosopher makes and then attacked it. This is a sort of hail-Mary approach, a desperate hope that something on your laundry-list of criticisms will stick and give merit to your paper. Sometimes this is the best you can do in the circumstances, but it is almost always less effective. A broadside is good in the brainstorming stage; but then pick out the one or two points that you think are most relevant or promising, and then develop them as best you can. Narrow in on something specific and do your best to develop your evaluation or critique (i.e., your answering of the assigned question).
  • Another common (and related) approach was to give a paragraph by paragraph regurgitation of the text. This strategy, besides being stylistically awkward, hints to the reader that you’re really not sure what the argument is, or which parts are more important, and so you’re just going to try and say everything exactly how the philosopher did. You don’t have time in a short paper for much summary. Rather than a point by point regurgitation, be judicious in what you include. You ’ re attempting to explicate not summarize the argument . As already mentioned, you do want to give an overview, you want to articulate the argument. But this doesn’t mean you’ll make all of the same points or use all of the same examples in the very same way. The point of articulating the philosopher’s argument is to help you in writing your paper and arguing your ideas. Highlight or emphasize the parts that are more important or relevant to your own thesis. Cut out the fluff, unimportant illustrations, or side tangents. Reorder things for your benefit. Say what needs to be said to inform your reader and set him up for your own argument.
  • You don’t have to completely destroy or defend an argument. Perhaps you think that a philosopher is largely correct in her views, but that she’s a little off on an important issue. You can argue that she needs a slight modification to her position. Or perhaps you’re comparing two philosophers –you don’t have to argue that one of them is completely right and the other entirely wrong. You can argue that they both have some things right and some things wrong, and then argue for a hybrid position.
  • Finally, on argumentation, I want to make a suggestion that has more to do with how you word your claims than anything else. It is highly unlikely that any of you will “prove”anything one way or the other. Philosophers use the word ‘prove’in a technical way, and are rather reserved about it. More often than not when they use it they at least qualify it in some way (e.g.. “I will attempt to prove…”). I suggest avoiding the word all together when writing philosophy—at least for now.
  • Structure: Again, I’m not against creativity, and not married to rigid and explicit structures, but your reader ought to be able to tell exactly where he is in your argument. Whether or not you use meta-language, you need to give your reader signals and have a clear structure that is easy to follow. Avoid rambling or tangents, and clearly mark transitions.
  • Superfluous stuff: Part of maintaining a good structure and writing a strong, clear paper is cutting out all of the superfluous material. Especially on short papers like this, just get rid of anything extra or anything that doesn ’ t directly contribute to the point of the paper (of course, you can keep your creative stuff if you’re writing in that kind of style). Also, make sure you’ve got the right sort of balance or proportion. If the point of your paper is to defend Katz theocentric approach to environmental ethics, but you feel the need to give context (often a good idea), don’t spend a full page of pre- and post-argument context, with only a quarter page of actual argument. Instead, write a sentence or two of pre- and a sentence or two of post-argument context, and take a page to carefully, explicitly set out the argument.
  • Sexist Language: This is almost always a problem with undergraduate papers. Don’t let the sexist language of the older philosophers we’re reading (like Leopold) or that of your own culture lull you into thinking you can write this way. The point is not primarily about equality or the like. Using sexist language is simply unprofessional and stylistically immature. It’s at least as much of an eyesore as bad grammar or misspelled words. Specifically, don’t simply use “man”to represent humanity or “he”every time you need a neutral pronoun. You can almost always avoid a gendered pronoun (e.g., use “human”or “one”). Sometimes this is very difficult or would sound very awkward. In such cases, it’s fine to use either “she”or “he,”but you should rotate between the one and the other (e.g., in one paragraph or section of the paper use “she”and in the next paragraph or section use “he;”but again, avoid either whenever you can do so naturally). Sometimes you can write “she or he,”though this too can be awkward. Finally, don’t use “s/he”as a neutral pronoun. I recommend consulting a style guide for more details.
  • Never let quotes stand on their own — explain them. There is one skill for picking out relevant quotes from a text, and another skill involved in understanding what it says. Again, see a style guide for details.

I hope this is helpful to you as you begin work on your next papers.

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student assignment feedback example

5 effective constructive feedback examples: Unlocking student potential

Andrew Tobia

This video provides an overview of the key features instructors need to know to make best use of Feedback Studio, accessed through the Turnitin website.

student assignment feedback example

At Turnitin, we’re continuing to develop our solutions to ease the burden of assessment on instructors and empower students to meet their learning goals. Turnitin Feedback Studio and Gradescope provide best-in-class tools to support different assessment types and pedagogies, but when used in tandem can provide a comprehensive assessment solution flexible enough to be used across any institution.

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Providing constructive feedback examples to students is an important part of the learning journey and is crucial to student improvement. It can be used to feed a student’s love of learning and help build a strong student-teacher relationship. But it can be difficult to balance the “constructive” with the “feedback” in an effective way.

On one hand, we risk the student not absorbing the information, and therefore missing an opportunity for growth when we offer criticism, even when constructive. On the other hand, there is a risk of discouraging the student, dampening their desire to learn, or even harming their self-confidence. Further complicating the matter is the fact that every student learns differently, hears and absorbs feedback differently, and is at a different level of emotional and intellectual development than their peers.

We know that we can’t teach every student the exact same way and expect the same results for each of them; the same holds true for providing constructive feedback examples. For best results, it’s important to tailor how constructive feedback is provided based on content, student needs, and a variety of other factors.

In this blog, we’ll take a look at constructive feedback examples and the value of effective instructor feedback, centering on Dr. John Hattie’s research on “Where to next?” feedback. We’ll also offer key examples for students, so instructors at different grade levels can apply best practices right away.

In 1992 , Dr. John Hattie—in a meta-analysis of multiple scientific studies—found that “feedback has one of the positive influences on student achievement,” building on Sadler’s concept that good feedback can close the gap between where students are and where they aim to be (Sadler, 1989 ).

But before getting too far into specifics, it would be helpful to talk about what “constructive feedback” is. Not everyone will define it in quite the same way — indeed, there is no singular accepted definition of the phrase.

For example, a researcher in Buenos Aires, Argentina who studies medical school student and resident performance, defines it, rather dryly, as “the act of giving information to a student or resident through the description of their performance in an observed clinical situation.” In workplace scenarios , you’ll often hear it described as feedback that “reinforces desired behaviors” or, a definition that is closer to educators’ goals in the classroom, “a supportive way to improve areas of opportunity.”

Hattie and Clarke ( 2019 ) define feedback as the information about a learning task that helps students understand what is aimed to be understood versus what is being understood.

For the purposes of this discussion, a good definition of constructive feedback is any feedback that the giver provides with the intention of producing a positive result. This working definition includes important parts from other, varied definitions. In educational spaces, “positive result” usually means growth, improvement, or a lesson learned. This is typically accomplished by including clear learning goals and success criteria within the feedback, motivating students towards completing the task.

If you read this header and thought “well… always?” — yes. In an ideal world, all feedback would be constructive feedback.

Of course, the actual answer is: as soon, and as often, as possible.

Learners benefit most from reinforcement that's delivered regularly. This is true for learners of all ages but is particularly so for younger students. It's best for them to receive constructive feedback as regularly, and quickly, as possible. Study after study — such as this one by Indiana University researchers — shows that student information retention, understanding of tasks, and learning outcomes increase when they receive constructive feedback examples soon after the learning moment.

There is, of course, some debate as to precise timing, as to how soon is soon enough. Carnegie Mellon University has been using their proprietary math software, Cognitive Tutor , since the mid-90s. The program gives students immediate feedback on math problems — the university reports that students who use Cognitive Tutor perform better on a variety of assessments , including standardized exams, than their peers who haven’t.

By contrast, a study by Duke University and the University of Texas El Paso found that students who received feedback after a one-week delay retained new knowledge more effectively than students who received feedback immediately. Interestingly, despite better performance, students in the one-week delayed feedback group reported a preference for immediate feedback, revealing a metacognitive disconnect between actual and perceived effectiveness. Could the week delay have allowed for space between the emotionality of test-taking day and the calm, open-to-feedback mental state of post-assessment? Or perhaps the feedback one week later came in greater detail and with a more personalized approach than instant, general commentary? With that in mind, it's important to note that this study looked at one week following an assessment, not feedback that was given several weeks or months after the exam, which is to say: it may behoove instructors to consider a general window—from immediate to one/two weeks out—after one assessment and before the next assessment for the most effective constructive feedback.

The quality of feedback, as mentioned above, can also influence what is well absorbed and what is not. If an instructor can offer nuanced, actionable feedback tailored to specific students, then there is a likelihood that those students will receive and apply that constructive feedback more readily, no matter if that feedback is given minutes or days after an assessment.

Constructive feedback is effective because it positively influences actions students are able to take to improve their own work. And quick feedback works within student workflows because they have the information they need in time to prepare for the next assessment.

No teacher needs a study to tell them that motivated, positive, and supported students succeed, while those that are frustrated, discouraged, or defeated tend to struggle. That said, there are plenty of studies to point to as reference — this 2007 study review and this study from 2010 are good examples — that show exactly that.

How instructors provide feedback to students can have a big impact on whether they are positive and motivated or discouraged and frustrated. In short, constructive feedback sets the stage for effective learning by giving students the chance to take ownership of their own growth and progress.

It’s one thing to know what constructive feedback is and to understand its importance. Actually giving it to students, in a helpful and productive way, is entirely another. Let’s dive into a few elements of successful constructive feedback:

When it comes to providing constructive feedback that students can act on, instructors need to be specific.

Telling a student “good job!” can build them up, but it’s vague — a student may be left wondering which part of an assessment they did good on, or why “good” as opposed to “great” or “excellent” . There are a variety of ways to go beyond “Good job!” on feedback.

On the other side of the coin, a note such as “needs work” is equally as vague — which part needs work, and how much? And as a negative comment (the opposite of constructive feedback), we risk frustrating them or hurting their confidence.

Science backs up the idea that specificity is important . As much as possible, educators should be taking the time to provide student-specific feedback directly to them in a one-on-one way.

There is a substantial need to craft constructive feedback examples in a way that they actively address students’ individual learning goals. If a student understands how the feedback they are receiving will help them progress toward their goal, they’re more likely to absorb it.

Our veteran Turnitin team of educators worked directly with Dr. John Hattie to research the impact of “Where to next?” feedback , a powerful equation for goal-oriented constructive feedback that—when applied formatively and thoughtfully—has been shown to dramatically improve learning outcomes. Students are more likely to revise their writing when instructors include the following three essential components in their feedback:

  • Issue: Highlighting and clearly describing the specific issue related to the writing task.
  • Relevance: Aligning feedback explicitly to the stated expectations of the assignment (i.e. rubric).
  • Action: Providing the learner with their “next steps,” appropriately guiding the work, but not giving away the answer.

It’s also worth noting that quality feedback does not give the answer outright to the student; rather, it offers guidelines and boundaries so the students themselves can do their own thinking, reasoning, and application of their learning.

As mentioned earlier, it's hard to balance the “constructive” with the “feedback” in an effective way. It’s hard, but it’s important that instructors learn how to do it, because how feedback is presented to a student can have a major impact on how they receive it .

Does the student struggle with self confidence? It might be helpful to precede the corrective part of the feedback acknowledging something they did well. Does their performance suffer when they think they’re being watched? It might be important not to overwhelm them with a long list of ideas on what they could improve.

Constructive feedback examples, while cued into the learning goals and assignment criteria, also benefit from being tailored to both how students learn best and their emotional needs. And it goes without saying that feedback looks different at different stages in the journey, when considering the age of the students, the subject area, the point of time in the term or curriculum, etc.

In keeping everything mentioned above in mind, let’s dive into five different ways an instructor could give constructive feedback to a student. Below, we’ll look at varying scenarios in which the “Where to next?” feedback structure could be applied. Keep in mind that feedback is all the more powerful when directly applied to rubrics or assignment expectations to which students can directly refer.

Below is the template that can be used for feedback. Again, an instructor may also choose to couple the sentences below with an encouraging remark before or after, like: "It's clear you are working hard to add descriptive words to your body paragraphs" or "I can tell that you conducted in-depth research for this particular section."

student assignment feedback example

For instructors with a pile of essays needing feedback and marks, it can feel overwhelming to offer meaningful comments on each one. One tip is to focus on one thing at a time (structure, grammar, punctuation), instead of trying to address each and every issue. This makes feedback not only more manageable from an instructor’s point of view, but also more digestible from a student’ s perspective.

Example: This sentence might be difficult for your readers to understand. Reword this sentence so your meaning is clear to your audience.

Rubrics are an integral piece of the learning journey because they communicate an assignment’s expectations to students. When rubrics are meaningfully tied to a project, it is clear to both instructors and students how an assignment can be completed at the highest level. Constructive feedback can then tie directly to the rubric , connecting what a student may be missing to the overarching goals of the assignment.

Example: The rubric requires at least three citations in this paper. Consider integrating additional citations in this section so that your audience understands how your perspective on the topic fits in with current research.

Within Turnitin Feedback Studio, instructors can add an existing rubric , modify an existing rubric in your account, or create a new rubric for each new assignment.

QuickMark comments are sets of comments for educators to easily leave feedback on student work within Turnitin Feedback Studio.

Educators may either use the numerous QuickMarks sets readily available in Turnitin Feedback Studio, or they may create sets of commonly used comments on their own. Regardless, as a method for leaving feedback, QuickMarks are ideal for leaving “Where to next?” feedback on student work.

Here is an example of “Where to next?” feedback in QuickMarks:

student assignment feedback example

It can be just as helpful to see a non-example of “Where to next?” feedback. In the image below, a well-meaning instructor offers feedback to a student, reminding them of what type of evidence is required in an argumentative essay. However, Issue and Action are missing, which leaves the student wondering: “Where exactly do I need to improve my support? And what next steps ought to be taken?”

Here is a non-example of “Where to next?” feedback in QuickMarks:

student assignment feedback example

As an instructor in a STEM class, one might be wondering, “How do I apply this structure to my feedback?” While “Where to next?” feedback is most readily applied to English Language Arts/writing course assignments, instructors across subject areas can and should try to implement this type of feedback on their assignments by following the structure: Issue + Relevance + Action. Below is an example of how you might apply this constructive feedback structure to a Computer Science project:

Example: The rubric asks you to avoid “hard coding” values, where possible. In this line, consider if you can find a way to reference the size of the array instead.

As educators, we have an incredible power: the power to help struggling students improve, and the power to help propel excelling students on to ever greater heights.

This power lies in how we provide feedback. If our feedback is negative, punitive, or vague, our students will suffer for it. But if it's clear, concise, and, most importantly, constructive feedback, it can help students to learn and succeed.

Study after study have highlighted the importance of giving students constructive feedback, and giving it to them relatively quickly. The sooner we can give them feedback, the fresher the information is in their minds. The more constructively that we package that feedback, the more likely they are to be open to receiving it. And the more regularly that we provide constructive feedback examples, the more likely they are to absorb those lessons and prepare for the next assessment.

The significance of providing effective constructive feedback to students cannot be overstated. By offering specific, actionable insights, educators foster a sense of self-improvement and can truly help to propel students toward their full potential.

Feedback on your assignments: what it is and how to use it

This guide explains how to use your tutor's feedback so that you understand your grade and how to improve your academic performance..

A student taking part in a one-to-one discussion with their tutor.

  • Understand your strengths and weaknesses

When you get your assignments back from your tutor, you will probably initially focus on the grade you have received.

However, your tutor will have given you useful and well thought-out feedback, with the purpose of a) helping you understand the grade and b) providing you with ideas for how to improve in future assignments. It is important that you make good use of this feedback to help you understand your strengths and weaknesses and what you need to do to improve on your grade.

There are three key things you need to do in order to maximise the usefulness of your tutor feedback:

  • Understand the feedback : look at all the feedback provided (sometimes there are comments on your script as well as the overall comments), and read it carefully to ensure you understand each comment.
  • Log your feedback : create a system of storing your feedback that is easily accessible.
  • Use your feedback in future assignments : refer to your feedback in preparation for new assignments, and use it as a checklist.
  • Understand the feedback

Tutors will have different ways of giving you feedback. Some will provide a written summary of your key strengths and weaknesses, and some will provide oral recorded feedback. You may also receive focused, itemised feedback on the script of your work.

Tutors will provide both positive and critical feedback. Generally, the positive feedback is easy to understand, but sometimes the critical feedback can be unclear or can use terminology that is not easy to understand. Some common critical comments are listed below with a glossary to explain what is meant, and suggestions for how to improve as a result of this feedback.

  • Glossary of terms
  • Log your feedback

Once you have read and understood the feedback you have received, it is important to create a system of storing it for future reference. This feedback is useful when preparing your next assignments, and you should find a system of storage that is easily accessible and works well for you.

Not everyone will like the same system. Here are a couple of examples of ways that students have stored their feedback to create an easy reference tool to use as a check list each time they start work on assignments.

Using a table

This method of logging and storing your feedback is commonly used. Here you create a table and cut and past feedback into the appropriate column. In addition, students often include a column for their grade, so that they can see which assignments are likely to have feedback that tells them not only what to improve, but also what to continue doing.

This is what it could look like as a student starts to fill it in:

Using a mind map

Another common way to log your feedback is by creating a mind map.

Use sections to group your feedback so that it is easily demarcated by comment-type. Mind maps work best with the key points from your feedback. It can be a useful review task to pull out the main issues raised by your tutor, and to summarise them using concise language.

Remember that you should choose a way to log your feedback that works best for you. It needs to be achievable and accessible to you, so that you can use it easily to review your tutors’ advice and learn from it.

  • Use your feedback in future assignments

Once you have set up a system for collecting and storing your feedback, you have an important resource to help you improve on your work.

You need to revisit this feedback and review the comments frequently, in order to learn what your strengths and weaknesses are. You will start to identify themes, and this will help you to create a plan for how to improve.

For each new assignment, the following approach should help you to avoid making the same mistakes again, and allow you to consolidate the strengths you have.

  • Summary and next steps
  • Make sure you understand it and can see why your tutors are saying what they are saying.
  • Create a storage system that suits you. Include your own reflection and ideas for what you need to do to improve.
  • As you build up your feedback, start to collate it to show recurring themes and comments.
  • Use your collated feedback as a guide and checklist when planning, preparing and reviewing your work.

Engaging with feedback resource

This short, interactive self-access resource shows you how to:

  • use feedback as a powerful learning tool
  • examine what might be preventing you from using feedback
  • identify patterns in your feedback
  • set goals and create a personal action plan.

If you have any questions, please contact us.

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How to Provide Mastery-Oriented Feedback (With Examples)

Tom Thibodeau

Let’s get down to the brass tacks of mastery-oriented feedback .  What does it mean in practice?

Assignment example with non-mastery oriented feedback

However, if we rethink our process, add mastery-oriented feedback (MOF), and have our students reflect on and revise their work with the feedback, we can help our students learn from the assignment, providing more satisfaction for you in the process.  Ok.  I know, an elephant has just entered the room, and we need to discuss it.  You are already thinking about how you can possibly find any extra time to do anything more. So, let’s talk about that before we talk about the MOF. Yes, this will take extra time to get your head around this, and yes, it will increase the time it takes to assess student work. But, it will pay you back when you see that the students are learning more and you start to move through your lessons a little faster because of the stronger learning foundation that you have created. So, while you are learning this new process, feel free to reduce the number of assignments you actually assess.  Go over the assignments in class with the students.  Have the students self-assess and self-reflect more as you go over the answers.  Give MOF verbally and support students in the process of achieving the goals of the lesson.  Do more formative assessments.  In short, reduce the quantity so that you can increase the quality of your feedback.

Now, let’s talk about the process of MOF. 

Set Up For Success

MOF is much easier to provide when you design the assessment or assignment with goals and clear outcomes that match the lesson! It will give you a foundation and a standard to evaluate. It helps to make the process more objective instead of subjective as well. 

MOF starts way before you review student work.  It starts at the beginning of your lesson planning when you develop the goals and objectives of your lesson. These goals and objectives should be aligned with the state standards and/or the curriculum.  They also need to be S.M.A.R.T. and be written in user-friendly language that meets the needs of your students.  Setting up S.M.A.R.T. goals sets goals and objectives that your student can understand and that you can use to evaluate the student's work.  It removes the guesswork.  It also gives you the ability to decide upon the options and choices that you can offer that align with your firm goals.  I would suggest that you choose assessments that do not require only one answer or, if that is unavoidable, that you ask students for their reasons for choosing their answer.

MOF continues during the delivery of the lesson as you provide explicit instruction and reinforce the goals and objectives in multiple ways and give your students opportunities to practice the topics, self-reflect on their progress, self-assess their work and try again if they haven’t achieved the goals and objectives or move on to the next step if they have.  Providing options and choices to your students will help them overcome any barriers that they may encounter along the way. 

Kicking Off the Assessment

When the students are ready (notice that I didn’t say when you are!), you can provide them with more formalized assessments.  Encourage students to review the assignment/quiz/exam/project and to ask you any questions about things they don’t understand before they start. Then let them do the work.  When they are done, collect the work and if possible, review the assignment with the students in a side-by-side assessment to ensure everything is complete. This is also an incredible opportunity to ask students to reflect on how they did. Next, within a day or two (the quicker, the better), assess student work.  Before you begin this process, review the goals and objectives one more time and then do a quick review of all the submitted work to see if there were any big misconceptions, misunderstandings, or confusion and get your “arms” around the task.  Be sure to note any delivery issues that arise so that you can revise the assignment for the next time.

Review and Feedback

As you assess each student submission:

  •  If students meet or exceed standards, give positive reinforcement. For example,  “I like how you figured this out and came up with your own process to solve the problem,” “I like how you connected the concepts….” Ask questions like “how would you do this if….”? And "what was your process for learning how to do this?"  It is ok if you want to add global comments to the top of the assignment that congratulates the student on a “job well done” or “keep up the good work,” but avoid comments like “you are so smart” or “you got 98 out of 100!”.
  • If students are not yet meeting standards, tell them where their work is incorrect or needs improvement and encourage the student to keep trying by reviewing a particular resource that you used in the lesson or offer them a strategy for looking at the question or solving the problem.  Be specific. Use this as a “teaching moment” to help the student learn the concept.  Then, give them an opportunity to revise before you post a grade.  Help them succeed.

You don’t have to do all this by writing comments on the page. You could do this one-on-one with each student, or you could record an audio or video (screencast) that reviews the assignment and then send it to the student. Alternatively, you could do a full class review and then meet with small groups of students in a station rotation.  This will give you time to “encourage perseverance, focus on the development of efficacy and self-awareness” (CAST) and reinforce the objectives and goals of the lesson so that students will know what they achieved or what they need to continue to work on.  This would also be a good time to do a “my favorite wrong answer” to highlight that we all make mistakes and that making mistakes is part of the learning process to destigmatize any wrong answers.

Examples of Mastery-Oriented Feedback

The following examples are from a variety of subjects in a few grades.  We have added MOF to each example. All samples have been made anonymous and are used with permission.  Each sample is linked to a video review of the feedback and a Padlet.  Choose whichever samples interest you.

4th Grade Writing Sample (Special Education):   Padlet | Video 

4th Grade End of Unit Self-Assessment: Padlet | Video 

5th Grade Mathematics:   Padlet | Video 

5th Grade Science:   Padlet | Video

HS English:   Padlet | Video

Learn More:

  • How to Universally Design Grading
  • Take a self-paced course on standards-based grading
  • Go beyond the letter grade - A step-by-step overview of mastery-oriented feedback

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student assignment feedback example

How to Give Feedback

student assignment feedback example

Why is feedback important?

Feedback has been known to be an important part of the learning process. Especially when coupled with deliberate practice, feedback can help students spend their time mastering aspects that they need to focus on most rather than practicing what they already know. Effective feedback works as a map to guide students by letting them know where they are now and what to work on in order to get to their goal. Without good feedback, students may carry misconceptions that they did not even realize they had while learning the material and walk aimlessly towards a goal without being sure how they can get there. 

What constitutes effective feedback?

Effective feedback is: 1) targeted, 2) communicates progress, 3) timely, and 4) gives students the opportunity to practice and implement the feedback received. In a broader sense, these aspects relate to thinking about where the student is going, how the student is doing now, and what the next step is.

Targeted feedback

When giving feedback, it is important to make sure that it is specific and linked to clearly articulated goals or learning outcomes. Targeted feedback gives students an idea of what they did well and how they can improve in relation to the learning criteria stated in the course. Connecting feedback to specific and achievable goals helps provide students with an understanding of desired outcomes and sub goals as well. Additionally, goals should not be too challenging or too easy; goals that are too challenging can discourage students and make them feel unable to succeed, while goals that are too easy may not appropriately push students to improve and also provide them with unrealistic expectations of success.  

Targeted feedback also includes prioritizing feedback – in other words, it is important not to overwhelm students with too many comments. Research has shown that even minimal feedback on students’ writing can lead to an improved second draft, especially in the early stages, because it lets students know if they are on the right track and whether readers understand their message. To implement this, you may consider setting up milestones in order to break up a class project or paper and provide feedback to students along the way. 

Communicates progress

Feedback showing how far a student has come can help by providing students with information on how much they have improved and where they should direct more attention to. Studies have shown that formative, process-oriented feedback that is focused on accomplishments is more effective than summative feedback, such as letter grades, and also leads to greater interest in the class material. One strategy to consider may be providing specific comments on student work without a letter or number grade; students tend to fixate on such summative feedback, and studies have shown that providing both feedback and a grade actually negates the benefits of the given feedback. 

Opportunity to practice 

Simply giving targeted feedback will not be effective if students are not also given the chance to practice and put this feedback into place. Targeted feedback helps direct students’ efforts to focus on how they should move forward for the future, but practice allows students to actually learn from feedback by applying it. Otherwise, there is the potential for students to not actually digest the feedback even if they willingly received it. Some ways to link practice with targeted feedback are to have a series of related assignments where students are asked to incorporate feedback into each subsequent assignment, or create sub-goals within projects where students receive feedback on rough drafts along the way and are specifically given a goal to address the feedback in final drafts. Regardless of the nature of the assignment, the key part is that students be given the opportunity to implement the feedback they are given in related class assignments. 

Timing of feedback

It is also important that feedback be timely. Generally, immediate feedback and more frequent feedback is often best so that students are on track for their goals, but timely feedback may not necessarily be given right away. The timing of feedback largely depends on the learning goals – immediate feedback is better when students are learning new knowledge, but slightly delayed feedback can actually be helpful when students are applying learned knowledge. In particular, if the learning goal of an assignment is for students to be able to not only master a skill but also recognize their own errors, then delayed feedback would be the most appropriate because it allows students to think about their mistakes and have the chance to catch their errors rather than relying on feedback to tell them. 

For STEM classes, immediate feedback may include in-class concept questions where students can know right away whether they have understood the new material that they just learned, while delayed feedback would include a problem set where they have to apply these learned concepts and wait before receiving feedback. For non-STEM classes, immediate feedback may include an in-class discussion, where students can hear feedback and thoughts on their ideas in real time, while an example of delayed feedback would be an essay, where students have to apply what they have learned in class to their writing and do not receive feedback on their submission right away.

Strategies to implement feedback in the classroom

As an instructor, you may not always have the time to provide feedback the way you would like to. The following strategies offer some suggestions for how you can still efficiently provide students with useful feedback.

Look for common errors among the class

You may notice common errors or misconceptions among the class while grading exams, or realize that many students ask a similar question at office hours. If you take note of these common mistakes, you can then address them to the class as a whole. This can have the added benefit of making students feel less alone, as some may not realize that the mistake they made is a common one among their peers.

Prioritize feedback

As mentioned earlier, it can be helpful even to provide minimal feedback on a rough draft to steer students in the right direction. Often, it might not be necessary to provide feedback on all aspects of an assignment and doing so may actually overwhelm students with feedback. Instead, think about what would be most important to provide feedback on at this time – you may consider providing feedback on one area at a time, such as one step of crafting an argument or one step of solving a problem. Be sure to communicate with students which areas you did/did not provide feedback on.

Incorporate real-time group feedback.

Many feedback strategies appear more feasible for small classes, but this method is particularly useful in large lecture classes. Clicker questions are a common example of real time group feedback. It can be particularly difficult in larger classes to gain a good picture of student comprehension, so real-time feedback through clicker questions and polls can allow you to check in with the class. For instance, if you notice there are a large proportion of incorrect answers, you can think about how to present the material in a different way or have students discuss the problem together before re-polling. Other options for real-time group feedback include external polling apps – the most commonly used polling apps on campus are PollEverywhere , Socrative , and Sli.do .

Utilize peer feedback

It may not be logistically feasible for you to provide feedback to your students as often as you wish. Consider what opportunities for peer feedback may exist in your subject. For example, students could provide each other with immediate, informal feedback in-class using techniques such as “Think-Pair” where each student has had time to first grapple with a concept or a problem individually and then is asked to explain the concept or problem solving approach to each other. Using peer feedback allows students to learn from each other while also preventing you from getting overwhelmed with constantly having to provide feedback as the instructor. Peer feedback can be just as valuable as instructor feedback when students are clear on the purpose of peer feedback and how they can effectively engage in it. One way to create successful peer feedback, particularly for more substantial assignments, is to provide students with a rubric and an example that is evaluated based on the rubric. This makes it clear to students what they should be looking for when conducting peer feedback, and what constitutes a successful or unsuccessful end result.

Create opportunities for students to reflect on feedback

By reflecting on how they will implement the feedback they have received, students are able to actively interact with the feedback and connect it to their work. For example, if students have a class project divided into milestones, you may ask students to write a few sentences about how they used the comments they received and how it impacted the subsequent assignment.

Ambrose, Susan A., Michael W. Bridges, Michele DiPietro, Marsha C. Lovett, and Marie K. Norman (2010). “What kinds of practice and feedback enhance learning?” In How Learning Works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching (pp. 121–152). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Benassi, V. A., Overson, C. E., & Hakala, C. M. (2014). Applying science of learning in education: Infusing psychological science into the curriculum. Retrieved from the Society for the Teaching of Psychology web site: http://teachpsych.org/ebooks/asle2014/ index.php

Goodwin, Bryan and Miller, Kirsten (2012). “Good Feedback is Targeted, Specific, Timely”. Educational Leadership: Feedback for Learning , Vol. 70, No. 1.

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Feedback for Learning

Feedback and revision are important parts of any learning experience. From in-class activities and assignments, to peer-reviewed manuscripts, feedback is essential for growth and learning. And yet, if students don’t reflect on or apply notes or comments, it can sometimes feel like feedback doesn’t matter all that much. Giving feedback can feel like an arduous process, and when it goes unused on student assignments, it can leave instructors feeling frustrated. This resource offers strategies to make giving feedback easier and more effective. While there are specific technologies (discussed below) that can help facilitate feedback in an online or hybrid/HyFlex learning environment, the strategies presented here are applicable to any kind of course (e.g.: large lecture, seminar) and across any modality (e.g.: synchronous, asynchronous, fully online, hybrid, or in-person).

On this page:

  • Feedback for Learning: What and Why
  • Characteristics of Effective Feedback
  • Strategies for Giving Effective Feedback
  • Facilitating Feedback with Columbia-Supported Technologies

Reflecting on Your Feedback Practices

  • Resources & References

The CTL is here to help!

Seeking additional support with enhancing your feedback practices? Email [email protected] to schedule a 1-1 consultation. For support with any of the Columbia tools discussed below, email [email protected] or join our virtual office hours .

Interested in inviting the CTL to facilitate a session on this topic for your school, department, or program? Visit our Workshops To Go page for more information.

Cite this resource: Columbia Center for Teaching and Learning (2021). Feedback for Learning. Columbia University. Retrieved [today’s date] from https://ctl.columbia.edu/resources-and-technology/resources/feedback-for-learning/

Feedback for Learning: What and Why 

What is feedback and why does it matter .

Broadly defined, feedback is “information given to students about their performance that guides future behavior” (Ambrose et al., 2010, p. 125). Feedback can help set a path for students, directing their attention to areas for growth and improvement, and connecting them with future learning opportunities. At the same time, there is an evaluative component to feedback, regardless of whether it is given with a grade. Effective feedback tells students “ what they are or are not understanding, where their performance is going well or poorly, and how they should direct their subsequent efforts” (Ambrose et al., 2010, p. 137). In this way, feedback is essential to students’ learning and growth. 

It is not enough for students to receive feedback. They also need explicit opportunities to implement and practice with the feedback received. In their How Learning Works: Seven Research-based Principles for Smart Teaching , Ambrose et al. (2010) underscore the importance of feedback, coupled with opportunities for practice: “Goal-directed practice coupled with targeted feedback are critical to learning ” (p. 125, emphasis in original). They further highlight the interconnection of feedback, practice, and performance in relation to overarching course goals. 

Types of Feedback 

There is no one size fits all for feedback. While there are common characteristics of effective feedback (discussed further in the following section), the form it takes will change across contexts. It can also come at different points of time during an assignment. You might offer students backward-looking feedback on a final product, after a student has “done” something; this type of feedback is usually given alongside an assignment grade. Or, you might offer forward-looking feedback, providing students advice and suggestions while the work is still in progress. It can be helpful for students to receive both kinds of feedback, with opportunities for implementation throughout. Related, the kinds of questions or prompts you use in your feedback will vary based on the kinds of responses and revisions you’re trying to solicit from students. Types of feedback may include: corrective, epistemic, suggestive, and epistemic + suggestive (Leibold and Schwarz, 2015). 

These particular types of feedback are not exclusive of each other. It’s very common that the feedback you give will have elements of some, if not all, of these four types. What type you use at what point will depend on the goals of the assignment, as well as the goal of the feedback and the kinds of revision and responses you are trying to solicit.

Characteristics of Effective Feedback 

Effective feedback is: 

  • Targeted and Concise: Too much feedback can be overwhelming; it can be difficult to know where to begin revising and where to prioritize one’s efforts. Use feedback to direct students’ attention to the main areas where they are likely to make progress; identify 2-3 main areas for improvement and growth. 
  • Focused: To help prioritize the main areas you identify, align your feedback with the goals of the assignment. You might also consider what other opportunities students have had or will have to practice these skills. 
  • Action-Oriented: Offer feedback that guides students through the revision process. Be direct and point to specific areas within the student’s work, offering suggestions for revision to help direct their efforts.
  • Timely: Feedback is most useful when there is time to implement and learn from it. Offer frequent feedback opportunities ahead of a final due date (forward-looking feedback), allowing students to engage with your feedback and use it throughout their revision process. These opportunities for practice will help students develop further mastery of course material.    

Strategies for Giving Effective Feedback 

This section offers strategies for putting the characteristics of effective feedback into action. These strategies are applicable across class types (e.g.: large lecture, seminar) and modalities (e.g.: in-person, fully online, hybrid/HyFlex). 

Create a culture of feedback

Establish a respectful and positive learning climate where feedback is normalized and valued. This includes helping students see the value of feedback to their learning, and acknowledging the role that mistakes, practice, and revision play in learning. Offer students frequent opportunities to receive feedback on their work in the course. Likewise, offer frequent opportunities for students to give f eedback on the course. This reciprocal feedback process will help to underscore the importance and value of feedback, further normalizing the process. For support on collecting student feedback, see the CTL’s Early and Mid-Semester Student Feedback resource.  

Partner with your students 

As McKeachie writes in McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers (2011) , “Effective feedback is a partnership; it requires actions by the student as well as the teacher” (p. 108). It’s not enough for you to just give feedback; students need to be involved throughout the process. You might engage students in a meta discussion, soliciting feedback about feedback. Engage students in conversations about what makes feedback most useful, its purpose and value to learning, and stress the importance of implementation.

You might also consider the role of peer review in the feedback process. While peer review should not replace instructor feedback, you can take into consideration the kinds of feedback students will have already received as you are reviewing their work. This can be particularly helpful for larger classes where multiple rounds of feedback from the instructor and/or TAs is not possible. For support on engaging students in peer review, see the CTL’s Peer Review: Intentional Design for Any Course Context resource.  

Align your feedback with the learning objectives

When giving feedback, be sure that your comments and suggestions align with overall course objectives, as well as the goals of the assignment. One helpful way to be sure your feedback aligns with learning objectives is to have a rubric. A rubric is an assessment tool that “articulates the expectations for an assignment by listing the criteria or what counts, and describing levels of quality” (Malini Reddy & Andrade, 2010, p. 435). Rubrics help make the goals and purpose of the assignment explicit to students, while also helping you save time when giving feedback. They are typically composed of three sections: evaluation criteria (e.g.: assignment learning objectives, what students are being assessed on); assessment values (e.g.: “excellent, good,  and poor,” letter grades, or a scale of 1-5, etc.); and a description of each assessment value (e.g.: a “B” assignment does this…). If using rubrics, you might consider co-constructing the rubric with your students based on the assignment prompt and goals. This can help students take more ownership of their learning, as well as provide further clarification of your expectations for the assignment.   

Keep your feedback focused and simple 

Keep in mind the key skills or competencies you hope students will practice and master in the particular assignment, and use those to guide your feedback. As John Bean writes in Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom (2011), “Because your purpose is to stimulate meaningful revision, your best strategy is to limit your commentary to a few problems that you want the student to tackle when preparing the next draft. It thus helps to establish a hierarchy of concerns, descending from higher-order issues (ideas, organization, development, and overall clarity) to lower-order issues (sentence correctness, style, mechanics, spelling, and so forth)” (p. 322). When considering your hierarchy of concerns, keep in mind the stage of the student’s draft: early drafts benefit more from higher-order feedback, as the specifics of the assignment may shift and change as the student continues drafting and revising. A later draft, closer to being “finished,” may benefit from lower-order concerns focusing on style and mechanics. 

Consider the timing of your feedback 

Be sure to offer multiple opportunities for feedback throughout the course; this frequency will also help support the culture of feedback discussed above. It’s also important that you consider when students will receive feedback from you, and what they will do with it; remember that, “if students are to learn from feedback, they must have opportunities to construct their own meaning from the received message: they must do something with it, analyze it, ask questions about it, discuss it with others and connect it with prior knowledge” (Nicol et al., 2014, p. 103). Give students time to implement your feedback whether to revise their work or apply it to future assignments. 

Change up your mode of delivery 

While the focus of feedback shifts depending on the assignment goals and your course context, you might also consider changing up the mode of your feedback delivery. Written comments, whether throughout the text or summarized at the end of the assignment, are valuable to students’ learning, but they are not the only way to deliver effective feedback: 

  • Audio/video feedback: To help save yourself time, and to humanize your feedback, consider using audio or visual feedback (Gannon, 2017; Cavanaugh and Song, 2014). Most instructors can talk through their ideas quicker than they can handwrite or type them, making audio feedback a timesaver. Audio feedback allows students to hear your tone and intended delivery. Audio/video feedback is particularly useful for fully online asynchronous courses, as it allows students an opportunity to connect with you, the instructor, on a more personal level than typed comments might provide . 

1-1 meetings: Consider using your office hours or other scheduled meetings to talk with students 1-1 about their work. You might ask students to explain or paraphrase the feedback they received. Prompts can include: 1) What was the feedback?; 2) What did you learn from my feedback?; 3) Based on the feedback, how will you improve your work?

Small group meetings : If you have a larger class, you might consider creating feedback groups where students will have read each other’s work and peers can share their feedback alongside you in a small group synchronous meeting. (This method can work regardless of the assignment being a group project or an individual assignment.) If teaching a fully online or hybrid/HyFlex course, these meetings can be facilitated in a dedicated Zoom meeting, or during class time using Zoom breakout rooms.   

Facilitating Feedback with Columbia-Supported Technologies 

While there is no shortage of technologies to help facilitate effective feedback, as this Chronicle of Higher Education Advice Guide highlights, it’s recommended that you work with tools supported by Columbia. These tools come with the added benefit of University support, as well as a higher likelihood of student familiarity. The technology you choose should align with the goals of the assignment and feedback; remember, keep it simple. While these technologies can help facilitate feedback for face-to-face courses, they are particularly useful for those teaching in a fully online or hybrid/HyFlex modality. 

For further support with setting up one of these platforms and making it work for your course context, please contact the Learning Designer liaison for your school to schedule a consultation, or drop in to our CTL Support Office Hours via Zoom. 

CourseWorks (Canvas)

CourseWorks offers a number of built-in features that can help facilitate effective feedback, furthering your students’ growth and learning, and helping to save you time in the process. Note: some of these features require initial enabling on your CourseWorks page. For help setting up your CourseWorks page, and further information about CourseWorks features, visit the CTL’s Knowledge Base . The CTL also offers two self-paced courses: Intro to CourseWorks (Canvas) Online and Assessment and Grading in CourseWorks (Canvas) Online , as well as live workshops for Teaching Online with CourseWorks .  

Gradebook Comments 

If using the CourseWorks Gradebook, you can attach summative feedback comments for your students; this is especially helpful when offering backward-looking feedback on assignments already submitted. For help on adding general Gradebook comments, see the Canvas Help Documentation: How do I leave comments for students in the Gradebook? .  

Quiz Tool Feedback

If you are using the CourseWorks quiz tool, you generate automated feedback for correct and/or incorrect responses. For correct responses, you might consider expanding upon the response, making connections across course materials. For an incorrect response, you might direct the student’s attention to particular course materials (e.g.: video, chapter in a textbook, etc.). For help with generating automated feedback in quizzes, see the Canvas Help Documentation: What options can I set in a quiz? . 

As previously discussed, rubrics can be a great way to both align feedback with the goals of an assignment, and save time while giving feedback. You can create rubrics for your assignments within CourseWorks to further support this process. It is also possible to copy over and edit rubrics across assignments, which is particularly helpful when reviewing different drafts or components of the same assignment. For further support on creating and using rubrics in CourseWorks, see the Canvas Help Documentation: How do I add a rubric to an assignment? . 


Within SpeedGrader , there are a number of ways to provide students with feedback. One key benefit of SpeedGrader is that it allows instructors to view, grade, and comment on student work without the need to download documents, which can greatly reduce the time needed to grade student work. Using the DocViewer , you can annotate within a student’s assignment using a range of commenting styles, including: in-text highlights and other edits, marginal comments, summative comments on large areas of an assignment, handwritten or drawing tools, and more. Comments can also be made anonymously. 

You can also offer students holistic assignment comments ; these particular comments are not specific to any one part of the assignment, but rather, appear as a summary comment on the project as a whole. There are a number of options for the mode of these comments, including: a brief text comment, an attachment (e.g.: a Word doc or PDF), or an audio/video comment. There is also a space for students to leave a message in response to your feedback, which can encourage them to more deeply engage with, and reflect upon, your feedback. For more detailed instructions on using the different tools, please see the Canvas Help Documentation: How do I add annotated comments in student submissions?  


Although Gradescope is more commonly used as an assessment and grading tool, there are a few features to support giving feedback; it is particularly useful when providing feedback on handwritten assignments submitted digitally, or on those assignments using particular software (e.g.: LaTex, other coding and programming languages, etc.). In Gradescope, you can provide comments and feedback using LaTex , making it easier to give feedback on assignments using mathematical equations or formulas. Gradescope also allows for in-text feedback and commenting using a digital pen or textbox ; this allows for feedback on hand-written assignments submitted digitally. For more Gradescope support, see the CTL’s Creating Assignments and Grading Online with Gradescope resource. 

While Panopto is typically used for recording course videos and lectures, it can also be helpful for providing students with video walkthrough feedback of their assignments. Using Panopto, you can screencast your student’s assignment while also recording your audio feedback. This can help humanize your feedback, while also simulating a 1-1 conference or meeting with the student. An added benefit of using Panopto is that you can edit the recording before sharing it with your student (e.g.: removing pauses, rephrasing comments, etc.). For further support on getting started and using Panopto, see the CTL’s Teaching with Panopto resource. 

Like Panopto, you can also use Zoom to record a feedback walkthrough. The one major difference is that Zoom recordings are done in a single take; there is no opportunity to edit the recording. Zoom is also great for meeting with students either 1-1 or in small groups. If using synchronous class time for small group feedback sessions, you can “circulate” between breakout rooms to check in with students and offer feedback. For further Zoom support, see the CTL’s Teaching with Zoom resource, or visit CUIT’s Zoom support page . ​

Reflecting back, can you tell if your past feedback practices were effective? Did your students understand and use the feedback you gave? Did their work improve as a result of the feedback given? What small changes to your feedback practices would benefit you and your students? 

With an upcoming assignment in mind, reflect on the following questions to guide your future feedback practices: 

  • How can you make your feedback targeted and concise? Consider the biggest challenge to the student’s success in the assignment. 
  • What will be the focus of your feedback? Focus on the most important skills or competencies you hope students will gain from the assignment. 
  • What type of feedback will you give (corrective, epistemic, suggestive, epistemic and suggestive, some other combination)? Connect the type of feedback you offer to the goals of the feedback and revision. 
  • How much time will students have to implement your feedback and revise? If students only receive feedback on the final products (with or without a grade), how will you help them use this feedback on future assignments?    
  • How can the student implement your feedback? Suggest places for students to begin.
  • When will students receive feedback? What would be most useful to help students implement your feedback and further practice these skills? 
  • What will be the mode of delivery for the feedback? What technologies will you use?

Resources & References 

Ctl resources .

Creating Assignments and Grading Online with Gradescope

Peer Review: Intentional Design for Any Course Context  

Ambrose, S.A., Bridges, M.W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M.C., & Norman, M.K. (2010). How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching . Jossey-Bass. 

Bean, J. (2011). Engaging ideas: The professor’s guide to integrating writing, critical thinking, and active learning in the classroom, 2nd ed. Jossey-Bass. 

Cavanaugh, A.J. & Song, L. (2014). Audio feedback versus written feedback: Instructors’ and students’ perspectives . MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 10 (1), 122-138.  

Desrochers, C. G., Zell, D., & Torosyan, R.  Provided meaningful feedback on students’ academic performance . The IDEA Center. 

Fiock, H. & Garcia, H. (2019, November 11). How to give your students better feedback with technology advice guide . Chronicle of Higher Education.   

Gannon, K. (2017, November 26). How to escape grading jail . Chronicle of Higher Education.  

Leibold, N. &  Schwarz, L. M. (2015). The art of giving online feedback . Journal of Effective Teaching. 15 (1), 34-46. 

Malini Reddy, Y. & Andrade, H. (2010). A review of rubric use in higher education . Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education. 35 (4), 435-448.  

McKeachie W.J. (2011). McKeachie’s teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers, 13th ed. Wadsworth Cengage Learning. 

Nicol, D., Thomson, A., & Breslin, C. (2014). Rethinking feedback practices in higher education: A peer review perspective . Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education , 39 (1), 102-122.   

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How to Give Positive Feedback on Student Writing

If your corrective feedback is very detailed but your positive comments are quick and vague, you may appreciate this advice from teachers across the country.

High school teacher handing papers back to teachers

“Nice work.” “Great job.” “Powerful sentence.” Even though I knew they wouldn’t mean much to students, these vague and ineffective comments made their way into my writing feedback recently. As I watched myself typing them, I knew I was in a rut. My critical comments, on the other hand, were lengthy and detailed. Suggestions and corrections abounded. I realized that I was focused too much on correcting student work and not enough on the goal of giving rich positive feedback.

As a writer, I know how hard it is when the negative feedback outweighs the positive. We all have things to work on, but focusing only on what to fix makes it hard to feel that our skills are seen and appreciated. My students put so much work into their writing, and they deserve more than my two-word positive sentences.

I wanted out of the rut, so I turned to my favorite professional network—teacher Twitter—and asked for help . “What are your favorite positive comments to make about student writing?” I asked. Here are some of the amazing responses and the themes that emerged from more than 100 replies from teachers.

Give a Window Into Your Experience as the Reader

Students typically can’t see us while we’re experiencing their writing. One genre of powerful positive comments: insights that help students understand how we responded as readers. Teacher Amy Ludwig VanDerwater  shared these sentence stems, explaining that “commenting on our reading experience before the craft of writing is a gift”:

  • This part really moved me.
  • I laughed out loud when I read this line.
  • Your writing makes me think...
  • You opened up a door in my mind.
  • Now I am questioning...
  • Now I am connecting to...
  • Now I am remembering...

On a similar note, Virginia S. Wood  shared: “I will tell them if I smiled, laughed, nodded my head, pumped my fist while reading their work, and I’ll tell them exactly where and why.”

I used Wood’s advice recently when I looked through a student’s project draft that delighted me. I wrote to her, “I have the biggest smile on my face right now. This is such an awesome start.”

Giving students insight into our experience as readers helps to connect the social and emotional elements of writing. Positive comments highlighting our reading experience can encourage students to think about their audience more intentionally as they write.

Recognize Author’s Craft and Choices

Effective feedback can also honor a student’s voice and skills as a writer. Pointing out the choices and writing moves that students make helps them feel that we see and value their efforts. Joel Garza shared, “I avoid ‘I’ statements, which can seem more like a brag about my reading than about their writing.” Garza recommends using “you” statements instead, such as “You crafted X effect so smoothly by...” or “You navigate this topic in such an engaging way, especially by...” and “You chose the perfect tone for this topic because...”

Similarly, seventh-grade teacher Jennifer Leung suggested pointing out these moments in this way: “Skillful example of/use of (transition, example, grammatical structure).” This can also help to reinforce terms, concepts, and writing moves that we go over in class.

Rebekah O’Dell , coauthor of A Teacher’s Guide to Mentor Texts , gave these examples of how we might invoke mentor texts in our feedback:

  • “What you’re doing here reminds me of (insert mentor text)...”
  • “I see you doing what (insert mentor writer) does...”

O’Dell’s advice reinforced the link between reading and writing. Thinking of these skills together helps us set up feedback loops. For example, after a recent close reading activity, I asked students to name one lesson they had learned from the mentor text that they could apply to their own writing. Next time I give writing feedback, I can highlight the places where I see students using these lessons.

Another teacher, Grete Howland , offered a nonjudgmental word choice. “I like to use the word ‘effective’ and then point out, as specifically as I can, why I found something effective. I feel like this steers away from ‘good’/‘bad’ and other somewhat meaningless judgments, and it focuses more on writing as an exchange with a reader.”

Celebrate Growth

Positive feedback supports student progress. Think of positive comments as a boost of momentum that can help students continue to build their identity as writers. Kelly Frazee  recommended finding specific examples to help demonstrate growth, as in “This part shows me that you have improved with [insert skill] because compared to last time…” As teachers, we often notice growth in ways that our students may not recognize about themselves. Drawing out specific evidence of growth can help students see their own progress.

Finally, I love this idea from Susan Santone , an instructor at the University of Michigan: When students really knock it out of the park, let them know. Santone suggested, “When my students (college level) nail something profound in a single sentence, I write ‘Tweet!’ ‘Put this onto a T-shirt!’ or ‘Frame this and hang it on a wall!’—in other words, keep it and share it!”

These ideas are all great starting points for giving students meaningful positive feedback on their writing. I’ve already started to use some of them, and I’ve noticed how much richer my feedback is when positive and constructive comments are equally detailed. I’m looking forward to seeing how these shifts propel student writing. Consider trying out one of these strategies with your students’ next drafts.

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  • Writing Sample Feedback

Examples of Submission Feedback

The following are actual responses to some of our recent submissions to the Online Writing Lab, although the names have been changed to maintain the anonymity of student writers. You can expect similarly global-oriented comments and suggestions for developing your own work. Of course, length and type of feedback vary between individual tutors and between essay submissions.

Dear Rachel: I think you touch on some really nice ideas in this paper, which I'll talk about in a minute, but first I want to address one general concern I had about your writing. You have a tendency to spend too much time summarizing the plot--this is time when you could be advancing your argument. You don't need to tell your reader what happens in the story; you can assume that he or she already knows. For example, look at this paragraph: [...] Everything that I've noted with square brackets is plot summary. The sentence that begins "Feeling rejected, the creature wanders away..." is borderline because you're making a judgment about the creature's motivations, but in general you shouldn't spend time repeating the events of the story. The second part of this paragraph is much better in that you're talking about motivations and making arguments. I think you've got some really interesting ideas in this paper, particularly in your fifth and sixth paragraphs, but you need to expand upon them. For example, you might spend more time talking about Millhauser's rationale--WHY does he think the monster should have been presented as a brutal beast throughout? What would be lost in such a presentation? Why is it better that Shelley shows the monster in terms of growth and progression? You introduce this idea in your introduction, arguing that Shelley is deliberately playing with the reader's sympathies, for the monster and for Frankenstein. Could you say more about HOW she does this? What is the effect of the reader's divided sympathies? Where does the sympathy lie at the end of the book? Why might Shelley be interested in this? In general, what is the value of making the creature sympathetic? I hope you found some of the questions I've raised valuable. You've touched on some interesting issues in this paper, and there is definitely plenty of room for you to develop them even further. If you have any questions about anything I've said, or any further questions, please feel free to write back to me. Good luck with your paper and thank you for submitting to the OWL!

Mark, Thank you for submitting your paper to the OWL; I am a Political Science major and very much enjoyed reading it. Below you will find a few suggestions for how to strengthen your writing during the revision process. You wrote that your major concerns with your paper were "abstract prose" and "elementary points." I did not find your arguments to be too simplistic or "elementary," nor did your language seem too abstract. It did, however, lack clarity and definition at some points. Specifically, there are some concepts that you repeat throughout your paper but never define. One is the "republican role." It may be that your instructor discussed this idea at length in class, or that Machiavelli does in his Discourses on Livy, but there is no such discussion in your paper. A stronger paper would define the proper role of a leader in a republican state from the beginning. Some theoretical questions you may want to consider on this point include: what is the difference between a republican leader and a tyrannical leader? How can one distinguish between the two? Why is it important to prevent against tyranny? Is the leader subservient to the will of the people? Is the leader responsible to anyone? Where does the leader draw his power or right to govern from? What does it mean to "be subordinate to a republican role"? What qualities are valuable in a leader? Which ones are dangerous? It may be beneficial to read over your paper with a critical eye looking for vague concepts. What ideas do you reference but never fully explain? Do you take certain concepts for granted? If you find such problems, generating a list of questions to focus your idea (as above) can be a helpful exercise. There were two more areas I found especially lacking in definition: the concept of tyranny and a "short time in office." Thank you again for submitting your paper to the OWL. Your arguments are strong and I hope my comments will help to fine-tune your essay. Please feel free to e-mail me for further assistance or clarification. Good luck with your revisions!

Thanks for submitting your essay-I enjoyed reading it. I hope my comments help you in your revision process.

Your personal narrative is without a doubt at its best when you give vivid details of the day from your perspective, which is, as you describe, a very unique one. The "chalky taste" of the air, for instance, is a detail that really brings the scene to life.

You asked for help with structure, and I think the most sensible structure in this case is a chronological one. It's fine to start with a vivid scene to land the reader in the event, but then it makes sense to step back and tell the story as it happened. To help you accomplish this end, you might consider listing each of the major points you want to cover and then turning them into an outline. It might help, too, to think about the overall message you want to convey. Then make sure all of your details contribute to that message.

As for constructive comments, you never really explain why you were at Ground Zero on September 12. Do you just happen to live nearby? Did you have any special connection to the firefighters or the victims? Why did you decide to help out?

I would also be careful of the very general statements you use to sum up the essay, such as , "That day brought to my attention a side of humanity that had lay dormant in my mind. That moment in time showed me that people have the capacity to act unselfishly." It's best to convey your point through examples rather than summation-the old advice to "show not tell."

It takes a lot of courage to tackle in an essay the events of September 11 and the days following, but I think you have a great perspective, and the ability to look beyond the chaos to the details of the scene.

Feel free to write back as you revise this piece. I'd be glad to talk more about it.

Hello, Angela,

Your paper is coherent, well-organized, and very informative. You do a nice job of incorporating various theorists and applying their ideas to the phenomenon of AHANA. You also do a good job of considering "the opposing viewpoint" and introducing relevant arguments to substantiate your position.

One area I would suggest giving a little more attention to how exactly AHANA functions. You mention that the term was coined as an alternative to the more negative term "minority," and that the group exists to "promote understanding..." etc. But I still want to know more about HOW the group works to achieve their goals; do they sponsor events on campus? hold workshops? etc. You did an effective job of explaining the philosophy of the group, but I would be interested in seeing just a little bit more of how it works in action, so to speak.

The second point is that you might want to explain in greater detail how subjective experiences shape the need for a group such as AHANA. You mention that racial and cultural differences do exist and that the "differing perspectives caused by these distinctions exist regardless of whether they are acknowledged." This is a very integral part of your argument, so maybe developing it further would be helpful. I realize it's a very broad concept to try and condense within your paper, but focusing on explicating that part might be helpful. Overall, I think you have a very strong paper that seems to fulfill the parameters of the assignment quite well.

student assignment feedback example


8 Student Feedback Examples To Start Your School Year Off Right

Whether you’re a teaching veteran or fresh out of your teacher training, you’re probably familiar with the standard student feedback issued on student report cards. While the current best practice has brought us a long way from “Your child is a pleasure to have in class,” it’s easy to fall into a rut when giving student feedback.

So, you’re looking for creative, constructive, and effective feedback for your students . But how can you give individualized feedback without pouring over report cards for hours? And how can you ensure that your feedback makes a difference in students’ learning achievement moving forward?

Here, we’ll look at the defining feature of effective feedback, and we’ll go through eight examples that will take your feedback game to the next level!

student feedback examples

What is constructive and effective feedback?

When you think of giving feedback to students, you probably react in one of two ways: either it seems like an impossible task that requires your full attention and hours (or days!) of your time, or else it feels like a tedious and repetitive task that has you copy-pasting generic feedback for each student.

There is a fine line between constructive and effective feedback and losing your sanity by giving individualized feedback. The most effective student feedback includes actionable suggestions for moving forward and measurable outcomes that can be checked and assessed later on in the school year.

How does student feedback affect my classroom?

Giving student feedback affects your classroom because it sets the course for future learning. When you give actionable and effective feedback, you’re essentially setting the future learning objectives for each student. 

Often, we think of assessment or feedback as the result of our classroom teaching and instructional design. However, constructive and effective feedback is just one part of the cycle of learning. The feedback or assessment isn’t the finish line: it’s a mile marker. 

Imagine you’re running a marathon. Signposts say how far you’ve already come and how far you’re still having to go. Friends are cheering you on. These signs help you set the pace, and the encouragement keeps you motivated. This is just like classroom feedback.

When you use feedback to measure achievement as you go (rather than measuring overall achievement), your classroom and lesson plans can adapt to meet the specific needs of your students. 

What are student feedback examples that I can use right now in my classroom?

Here are eight examples of feedback to promote formative assessment and get/keep students on target as they grow and learn throughout the year. 

Feedback Example #1

Student feedback : [NAME] always tries new things in class.

Why it works : You acknowledge that your student takes academic risks in class. If you’ve ever wished students to raise their hands and volunteer, try incorporating something like this in your feedback. 

Feedback Example #2

Student feedback : [NAME] takes initiative, especially in [SUBJECT].

Why it works : You take note of the student’s ability to identify and approach problems without being explicitly told, and you give a nod to their personal interests.

Feedback Example #3

Student feedback : [NAME] reached their specific goal of [EXPLICITLY STATE THE GOAL].

Why it works : You get to praise a measurable achievement, and it gives you a great foundation to set up the student’s next goal. It’s a way to gauge current progress while planning ahead for future success!

Feedback Example #4

Student feedback : [NAME] used to [UNDESIRABLE PAST OUTCOME], but now they [DESIRABLE CURRENT OUTCOME].

Why it works : You acknowledge how far the student has come in a certain area or skill, and you get to draw a clear comparison that emphasizes and reinforces the desired outcome. This way, the student is affirmed and encouraged to continue on the right path.

Feedback Example #5

Student feedback : [NAME] isn’t afraid to try new methods / processes / solutions.

Why it works : You’re giving a nod to the student’s effective orientation (i.e., their fearlessness, curiosity, or boldness) while also complementing their creative approach to learning. Effective orientation is a key element for learning achievement, so giving feedback that speaks to the individual and the learning goals is essential. 

Feedback Example #6

Student feedback : [NAME] always knows when to ask for help.

Why it works : You’re acknowledging that your student has a clear understanding of what they know and what they’re still learning. It also speaks to their willingness to cooperate and learn from others.

Feedback Example #7

Student feedback : Other students know that they can always ask [NAME] for help.

Why it works : You see that this student is a team player who uses their knowledge and skills for the benefit of the whole class. This student is also a key player in helping to make your classroom a cooperative and comfortable place to learn.

Feedback Example #8

Student feedback : [NAME] is flexible and always willing to try a new approach.

Why it works : You can clearly see that this student can roll with the punches and that they understand the material well enough to apply it in many different contexts. This is a shout-out to higher-level thinking skills and a great compliment to the student’s character!

TeacherMade makes it easy to give your students personalized feedback

Just because you’re making the switch to online assignments doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice personalized feedback to your students. With TeacherMade, you use our auto-score features to free up time to add more personalized comments. You can type customized comments so students can see their assignments. We mirrored the same experience of writing on student assignments with a pen. (The big difference is you will be done faster, and you’re not hauling a pile of paper around!)

student assignment feedback example

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Teaching Resources

Templates for Quick Student Feedback

Resource overview.

Gather quick and useful student feedback about your course with our easy-to-use templates.

Gathering Student Feedback

Instructor in front of classroom

Get started with survey templates created through collaboration between CIRCLE and the Center for Teaching and Learning.

We offer templates available for use in Canvas, Google Forms and Qualtrics. The templates all have the same questions and are fully customizable; use whichever platform you prefer. Please note that only Google Forms and Qualtrics offer truly anonymous surveys.

Each format has four templates available for gathering various kinds of feedback:

  • Quick Course Pulse : General feedback on how the course is going overall
  • Quick Feedback on a Course Activity : Feedback on a specific course activity
  • Quick Activity Feedback – Group Work : Feedback on a group assignment or activity
  • Quick Lecture Feedback : Feedback specific to lecture portions of a course

Using these Templates in your Course

  • Consider each template as a jumping off point. You can use them as is, or you can update them to better fit your needs by changing settings or editing, adding, or deleting questions. Instructions and tips are included in the survey guides found on the pages for each survey mode.
  • Under “Downloads” there is a pdf guide explaining how to use each kind of template in detail (Canvas / Google Forms / Qualtrics).
  • If you’d like further help or input on collecting student feedback, schedule a consultation with CTL staff or contact Rick Moore, the Assistant Director for Assessment and Evaluation [email protected]

Created through a collaboration between CIRCLE and the Center for Teaching and Learning. To preview the templates and import them into your courses, log into Canvas, and then follow the links below. Alternatively, you can also search for the templates within Canvas Commons using the instructions further down the page.

See our pdf guide download that includes detailed instructions plus general tips on collecting student feedback using these templates.

Available Survey Templates

Canvas commons logo

  • Quick Course Pulse:  General feedback on how the course is going overall
  • Quick Feedback on a Course Activity:  Feedback on a specific course activity
  • Quick Activity Feedback – Group Work:  Feedback on a group assignment or activity

If you still can’t get to the surveys via the links, please follow the instructions below to access the surveys by searching Canvas Commons. Once you’ve imported a survey into your course, it can be found under the “Quizzes” where you can make any changes you need and publish it to your students.

Accessing Surveys via Canvas Commons Search

Canvas commons logo

Correct results will have the following image:

student assignment feedback example

Google Forms is a easy-to-use survey platform that can be completely anonymous. If you don’t already have one you will need to  create a Google account  to design and send Google Forms, but students do not need to use or even have a Google account to respond.

The templates below were created through collaboration between CIRCLE and the Center for Teaching and Learning.

Click the links below to access the survey templates. Once a template has been opened, click the “USE TEMPLATE” button located in the upper right corner of the screen to import the survey into your Google account.

We also offer a pdf guide that includes  more instructions and general tips  on collecting student feedback using these Google Form templates.

Qualtrics is a professional survey platform to which WashU has an institutional subscription. Details and support can be found on the  Information Technology Qualtrics page .

Although Qualtrics is not difficult to use, because it is relatively feature-rich, it may be easier for you to use our Google Form or Canvas templates if you are not already familiar with designing surveys on this platform.

To import the templates into your Qualtrics account, download and  import the .qsf file for the survey  that you would like to use. In addition to the .qsf files, you can also download a Word version of the survey in order to preview the questions before importing them into Qualtrics.

We offer a pdf guide that includes more instructions and general tips on collecting student feedback using these templates.

  • Quick Course Pulse: General feedback on how the course is going overall [ .qsf  /  Word ]
  • Quick Feedback on a Course Activity: Feedback on a specific course activity [ .qsf  /  Word ]
  • Quick Activity Feedback – Group Work: Feedback on a group assignment or activity [ .qsf  /  Word ]
  • Quick Lecture Feedback: Feedback specific to lecture portions of a course [ .qsf  /  Word ]

Further Tips

  • Collect Something : Don’t get overwhelmed with possibility. Even a single piece of feedback can help you improve your course. Think about what you most want to know about your students’ experience in your course.
  • No need to reinvent the wheel : Use one of our ready-made templates to get started. You can always customize the questions to meet your specific needs, but there’s no need to start from scratch.
  • Wait a bit : Refrain from collecting feedback during the first two weeks of class; this will help you avoid investing effort into fixing issues that will naturally improve as students settle into the course.
  • Explain : Tell students what types of feedback you plan to collect and why.
  • Keep it brief : Try to use surveys that students can complete in a minute or two.
  • Make it convenient : Embed surveys into Canvas modules or send via email to streamline the process for students.to streamline the process for students.
  • Be strategic : Don’t overwhelm your students or yourself by collecting feedback on every activity. Focus your efforts on activities you suspect are not working well or those you’ve had to alter significantly.
  • Provide clear response options : Aim for response options with clear practical meanings (e.g., Needs Improvement/Meets Expectations vs. a 1-5 scale). This approach may help you view, interpret, and respond to feedback more quickly.
  • Give credit : If possible, consider tying surveys to a small amount of points (i.e., completion credit) to encourage participation. For example, this can be easily done on Canvas with an graded survey .
  • Acknowledge : Thank students for their feedback and emphasize its importance for improving the course.
  • Follow-Up : If necessary, make changes and assess their effect with a follow-up survey. For changes made to specific activities, the follow-up can be conducted the next time students complete the activity. For more general course-level changes, allow at least 3-4 weeks for the changes to take hold before reassessing. It’s also good idea to tell students explicitly that you’re making changes based on their feedback. If many students ask for a change that you decide not to implement, you might want to explain why you made that choice, if appropriate. This lets the students know that they were heard.
  • Start small: If your data indicate to you that improvement is needed, start by identifying one concrete change you can make rather than making a major overhaul.
  • Take care of “easy” fixes: Be sure to make “easy” fixes (broken links, pdfs that are hard to read, not be audible during lecture, etc.); even if only one student has mentioned them others have likely had the same problem.
  • Expect some negative feedback: A small percentage of students will always indicate that something “Needs Improvement.” It’s also normal to receive some contradictory results, especially with open ended questions (e.g. discussions are too long / discussions are too short). Keep negative ratings and comments in perspective.
  • Use open-ended feedback: Identify potential changes by consulting open-ended feedback (if you’ve collected it), soliciting follow-up feedback from students, seeking input from colleagues, or consulting with the CTL.
  • Look for patterns: Several students writing similar responses may be evidence of wider agreement on an issue. At the same time, comments that disagree with one another can also point to areas where student experience varies; such variation may signal an area to address in the future.
  • Sort answers: Finding patterns and making sense of qualitative data is not always easy, especially if you have more than just a few responses. One method is to copy and paste the qualitative answers into another program (e.g. Excel, Word, etc.) where you can sort them into categories that are helpful to you. There is no one right sorting strategy for everyone and you should choose the one that works best for you.
  • Follow up: You can always collect another round of feedback to assess changes you make. If this is a course-level change (and not just a change to a specific activity), give several weeks for the change to take effect before assessing.

While designing your survey, consider the advantages and challenges associated with open-ended survey questions.


  • Provides a low-barrier opportunity for students to share concerns and suggestions
  • Can help you interpret and respond to results of the closed questions without additional follow-up


  • Reviewing open responses can be time consuming, especially for a large course.
  • Open questions require more effort from students and can reduce response rates.

Some form of open-ended feedback is crucial to pinpoint problems and identify potential improvements. If you chose not to initially ask open-ended questions, you might consider following up with students via class discussion, email, or another survey on any specific areas of concern identified by your initial survey. While leaving open-ended questions for follow-up steps can help you control the amount and type of feedback you receive, there are also drawbacks to this approach. It creates extra logistical steps for yourself and your students, and surveying people frequently can significantly lower response rates. In general, open-ended questions are easiest to implement in smaller courses and more difficult (although not impossible) to use in larger ones.

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  • v.10(5); 2020 May

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Students tell us what good written feedback looks like

Susanne voelkel.

1 School of Life Sciences, University of Liverpool, UK

Tunde Varga‐Atkins

2 Centre for Innovation in Education, University of Liverpool, UK

Luciane V. Mello

3 School of Life Sciences, University of Liverpool, UK

Associated Data

Appendix S2. Examples of identified feedback types, depth and characteristics used for the analysis of in‐text feedback comments. (Depth: 1 = acknowledgement, 2 = correction, 3 = explanation, see Methods for detail). For each comment, it is indicated if it was also classified as ‘specific’, ‘easy’, and/or ‘feedforward’.

Feedback can be an important element of learning, but only if students engage with it. Students are only likely to engage with feedback that they find useful. This study aimed to identify characteristics of written feedback perceived by students as effective. We used a mixed‐method approach, integrating quantitative and qualitative data that were collected through the analysis of feedback that was identified by students as good, a student questionnaire, as well as interviews and a focus group exploring students’ views on what good feedback looks like. Although the results show that length and composition of ‘good’ feedback can be extremely variable, some common characteristics could be identified, leading to a set of recommendations for staff marking written assessments. According to students, good feedback should be detailed and specific, and it should tell students how they can improve. Students also find it important that feedback is honest and constructive. In addition, positive reinforcement was identified as important by the focus group, although few examples of good written feedback on the assignment contained any direct praise. Surprisingly, feedforward which might help students in other modules did not feature highly in students’ perceptions of good feedback, possibly indicating a focus by students on improving the current assignment rather than on future assignments.

We all want to do our best when it comes to providing feedback to students. But what does ‘good’ feedback look like? In this study, we explore the characteristics of written feedback that was perceived as good feedback by students. Based on these ‘good feedback’ characteristics and student views, we provide some recommendations on how to give good feedback.

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This study intends to identify characteristics of written feedback that is seen as good feedback by students. Students in higher education (HE) expect to receive feedback on their work [ 1 ]. If feedback is not provided, or if it does not meet their expectations, students express their dissatisfaction in module evaluations and in central student surveys such as the UK National Student Survey (NSS). The NSS is an annual survey for final year undergraduate students aimed to gather feedback on their experiences during their course. Although overall scores for feedback have improved in recent years [ 2 ], feedback has consistently been scoring lower than most other course features in the UK NSS [ 3 , 4 ]. As a consequence, many HE institutions strive to improve their ratings in this area [ 5 ].

In addition to the importance of NSS ratings for UK HE institutions, there are good reasons for improving feedback to students. It is generally agreed that feedback can have a significant beneficial effect on student learning [ 6 , 7 ]. But this can only happen if feedback is of high quality, if students read and understand their feedback, and if they act on it [ 8 , 9 , 10 ]. Unfortunately, these conditions are not always met. It appears that students often do not collect their feedback [ 11 , 12 , 13 ]. Other studies have shown that even if they collect and read their feedback, students do not always understand their tutors’ comments [ 1 , 14 , 15 ]. Many students find feedback comments vague [ 16 ] and lacking advice for future assignments [ 17 ]. According to Price et al . [ 18 ], ‘a key reason for assessment failing to support learning is ineffective feedback’.

So, what is the advice for a tutor/assessor who aims to give good feedback? Nicol and Macfarlane‐Dick [ 19 ] proposed ‘seven principles of good feedback practice’ in the context of formative assessment, aiming to help the student to ‘take control of their own learning’. Nicol [ 4 ] suggested that written feedback comments should be (among other things) understandable, specific, timely, balanced and forward‐looking. Regarding the latter, Boud and Molloy [ 9 , p. 702] even argue that ‘feed forward [is] not a separate notion but necessary characteristic of feedback’.

However, tutors appear to struggle putting this advice into practice. Carless [ 20 ] found discrepancies between tutors’ perceptions about the feedback they are giving, and what students thought about it. For example, tutors believe they are providing more detailed and useful feedback than student think they do. Other studies have shown that tutors have a variety of differing beliefs of the role of feedback [ 1 , 17 ]. For example, some tutors see the main purpose of giving feedback as justifying the grade, others wish to advise students, and some think that good students do not need detailed feedback at all [ 1 ]. What is more, Orrell [ 21 ] found that there can be a difference between what staff believe feedback should look like, and what feedback they actually provide. Reasons for these problems could include the fact that although the majority of academics try to do their best to provide helpful feedback to students [ 22 ], many practitioners have little formal educational training [ 23 , 24 ]. Also, Orrell [ 21 ] points out that there is more emphasis on the summative than on the formative role of assessment, leading to feedback that may be ‘defensive’ (i.e. a justification of the mark) rather than learning‐oriented.

Student expectations and perceptions of feedback are critical for their engagement with it [ 17 , 25 ]. Tutors tend to think that students are only interested in marks, but most students want to improve and are interested in tutors’ views of their work [ 20 , 26 ]. Students do not always completely agree on what useful feedback is [ 27 ]. For example, Orsmond and Merry [ 28 ] found differences between high‐ and low‐achieving students in terms of feedback perceptions. However, in general, feedback is seen as unhelpful if it lacks detail and does not contain suggestions for improvement [ 29 ]. The ability and willingness of students to engage with feedback depends on the extent to which they understood feedback and their self‐efficacy. In addition, the opportunity to resubmit a piece of work provides strong motivation for students [ 17 ].

Arguably, the most common feedback provided to students consists of written comments on student coursework assignments [ 1 ]. Recently, more and more written feedback is being provided electronically. Although paper‐based feedback comments have a lot of similarities with online feedback [ 30 ], sending feedback electronically is an effective and simple means of communicating feedback to students and can enhance the way in which they receive and engage with it [ 31 ]. Advantages include flexibility and convenience for the student regarding when and where they access the feedback, and the increased efficiency that allows a more timely feedback distribution [ 32 ]. Bridge and Appleyard [ 33 ] reported that most students preferred online submission of assignments and online feedback over hard copies. Others found that online submission and feedback can have negative sides, including a depersonalisation and unexpected technical difficulties [ 15 , 34 ]. However, Hast and Healy [ 15 ] found an increasing trend in preference and it seems likely that electronic coursework submission and feedback are here to stay. An additional benefit of this approach is the opportunity to monitor and share feedback practice. As Hounsell [ 3 ] points out, we need to know more about content and quality of feedback comments within teaching teams in order to identify problems and share good feedback exemplars.

The aim of this study was to identify common characteristics of good feedback and based on that to create guidance for biosciences tutors/assessors on how to produce effective written feedback to students. In the context of this study, the notion of good (effective) feedback is entirely based on student perceptions. This is in line with the idea that students are only likely to engage with what they perceive as high‐quality feedback [ 11 ]. To identify common characteristics of good feedback, we used four different methods: (a) analysis of written feedback examples that were provided by students who had been asked to send us written electronic feedback that they found effective; (b) a student questionnaire; (c) interviews; and (d) a focus group. This triangulated study design resulted in rich data and allowed us to produce a set of recommendations for assessors.

This study was funded by a Learning and Teaching Fellowship at the University of Liverpool, UK, awarded to one of the authors (SV) in 2016. Ethics approval was granted by the University’s Ethics Committee on 19 July 2016. The study followed a mixed‐method approach using qualitative and quantitative results from the analysis of examples of good feedback (i.e. feedback perceived as useful by students), a questionnaire, interviews and a focus group, thereby using a high degree of triangulation. All participants were undergraduate second‐ and third‐year students in the School of Life Sciences. Students were provided with information sheets prior to their participation, and participants signed consent forms for interviews and the focus group. As an incentive, all interview and focus group participants received a £10 voucher.

Feedback analysis and questionnaire

This part of the study was conducted between September and December 2016 and comprised two elements: quantitative and qualitative analysis of written feedback examples and a short questionnaire. All second‐ and third (final)‐year students (cohort size: 420 and 400, respectively) were invited by email to participate in the study if they thought that they had received particularly good feedback for a specific written assignment (see below). Respondents were also asked to complete a questionnaire asking them (a) to explain what they liked about their feedback, (b) how they responded to it and (c) to suggest any further improvement of the received feedback.

The study focused on two written assignments that were completed by all second‐ and third‐year students, respectively, via an online marking tool (Turnitin). For second‐year students, the assignment consisted of a 1500 word essay. After receiving marks and feedback, students had the opportunity to resubmit a revised essay if they wanted to improve their essay mark. The third‐year students’ assignment was a 3000 – word literature review as part of their final year research project. Although the third‐year students could not resubmit their work to achieve a better mark, feedback for the literature review would then help students to write the introduction to their research project report that was due to 5 months later. For both assignments, a marking rubric was used in addition to the written feedback. Students also had the opportunity to discuss their feedback face‐to‐face with their assessor.

Written feedback consisted of two elements. Firstly, in‐text comments, which were usually short (up to a few sentences, but often only a few words each), addressed a specific section of the assignment, and were placed close to the relevant text within the assignment (see Appendix S1 ). The second element was a feedback summary, which usually consisted of at least a paragraph, provided the markers’ overall view on the students’ work and was usually placed either at the end of the assignment or into a separate section (see Appendix S1 ).

The written feedback (which had been identified by the students as good) was downloaded and examined. The feedback summary was analysed through thematic analysis [ 35 ]. The quantity and content of the in‐text feedback comments was analysed according to Voelkel and Mello [ 36 ] as follows (e.g. see Appendix S2 ):

Feedback type

In‐text comments were allocated to one of the following three types:

  • Content (addressing errors, misconceptions or missing content in the context of the subject of life sciences).
  • Writing skills (expression, grammar, spelling, referencing format, structuring, argumentation).
  • Motivational (praise for things done well). Note that although motivational comments sometimes could have been allocated to one of the other two types instead, it transpired that motivational comments were often too unspecific to be allocated. Therefore, it was decided to keep ‘motivational’ as a separate type.

Feedback depth

Following the methodology of Glover and Brown [ 37 ], the depth of each in‐text feedback comment was also established:

  • Level 1: Acknowledgement (This kind of comment directs the student to a mistake or weakness but without offering further advice).
  • Level 2: Correction (The comment not only highlights a mistake or weakness but also provides advice on how to address the problem).
  • Level 3: Explanation (This kind of comment provides reasons why a particular word/sentence would be wrong in this context, or why the student should provide more information).

Further feedback characteristics

In addition to the above, we introduced three further characteristics, based on what has been previously suggested as hallmarks of good feedback (e.g. [ 38 ]). In contrast to the feedback types and depth described above, comments could be assigned to none, one or more than one of the following categories:

  • Easy‐wins (comments that could easily be addressed by following the marker’s suggestion, without the need for further work).
  • Specific (it was clear what the feedback referred to, and enough detail to follow up the comment was provided).
  • Feedforward (feedback that could clearly be useful for future assignments).

Following the feedback analysis, we invited all students who had sent us examples of good feedback to be interviewed. The interviews aimed to complement the feedback analysis by exploring the students’ views on good feedback characteristics in more depth. Seven students were interviewed by two of the authors of this study, LVM ( N  = 3) and SV ( N  = 4) between February and March 2017, and the interviews were recorded and transcribed. Interviews were semistructured and lasted for about 30 min each. The core interview questions were

  • With regard to feedback, what is important for you?
  • How would you define ‘good feedback’?
  • What makes you engage with feedback?
  • How much does the mark affect your engagement with the feedback?

The transcripts from the interviews were sent to the interviewees who were given one week to correct any mistakes or withdraw part or all of their contributions. All participants were happy with the transcript, and one added additional comments to it. The transcripts were then analysed by one author of the study, TVA.

Focus group

In addition to the feedback analysis and interviews, we wanted students to cooperatively formulate what ideal feedback looks like. A nominal focus group [ 39 ] was considered the best approach to achieve this. An email was sent out to all second‐ and third‐year students inviting them to participate in a focus group. Six students took part in the session which took place in May 2017 and was facilitated by one of the authors (TVA). The 60‐min session was recorded and transcribed. The session was structured as follows:

  • Introductions/consent/ground rules
  • Post‐it task 1: Students write down thoughts about ‘What does ideal feedback look like?’
  • Group discussion
  • Post‐it task 2: Students write sample feedback sentences that they would like to see on written assignments as if they were lecturers
  • Final summary task: ‘Write your top 5 wish – list for written feedback in ranked order’

The results of the focus group were summarised by TVA, and the summary was sent to the participants for comments or corrections. All of them were happy with the summary.

The first part of this study aimed to identify common characteristics of written feedback samples perceived by students as good feedback. Therefore, we asked second‐ and third‐year students if they felt that they received good feedback for a particular written assignment. Although 61 out of 820 students responded initially, not all returned a questionnaire, and not all assessment pieces could be included in the study (e.g. because the feedback was not accessible online in Turnitin). In total, 51 assessment pieces were analysed. Marks for the assessed pieces of work ranged from 58% to 87%, indicating that most respondents were high achievers (see Table  1 ).


Feedback analysis

Assessors’ in‐text comments.

In total, 780 in‐text feedback comments across 51 assessment pieces were analysed (see Table  2 ). This related to an average of 11 (second year) and 18 (third year) comments per marked assignment, respectively. With regard to feedback types, over half of the comments in both assignments related to writing skills, about a third were about subject content, and only around a tenth of the comments consisted of praise (motivational). Analysing the depth of the comments, we found that in the second‐year essay, the most common feedback depth was at level 1 (acknowledging a mistake or omission), making up nearly half of the comments. In the third‐year literature review, level 2 feedback (correction) was the most common. Further analysis showed that in both assignments, the vast majority of the feedback comments were specific, being detailed and clearly indicating the instance where the feedback related to. Easy‐win comments were less frequent, and only a small proportion provided feedforward that might be applicable for future assignments.

Analysis of assessors’ in‐text feedback comments a .

Assessors’ feedback summaries

Just over half of the second‐year essays and 73% of the third‐year literature reviews received a feedback summary from their assessor (see Table  3 ). The average length of the summaries differed between second and third years (46 versus 70 words, respectively), and this difference becomes even more pronounced when considering the median (12 versus 55 words). In both assignments, where summaries were provided, almost all of them contained praise and suggestions for improvement that could be useful for future assignments. Over half of the summaries contained a justification of the mark, but only a small proportion referred to the marking criteria.

Analysis of assessors’ feedback summaries.

Variation between assessors

The numbers shown in Tables  2 and ​ and3 3 already indicate the huge variability of the feedback provided for individual pieces of work, both in terms of quantity and quality. The number of in‐text comments on individual pieces of work varied widely, from zero (in three cases) to 67 per marked assignment. Similarly, the length of the feedback summaries varied from zero to 336 words (Fig.  1 ).

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Number of in‐text comments and length of feedback summary for each piece of work. The length of the summary is expressed as the number of words divided by 10. (A) Second‐year essay ( n  = 21), and (B) third‐year literature review ( n  = 30).

There was also a large variation in the composition of in‐text feedback (i.e. the ratio between content, writing skills and motivational comments as well as between the different levels of depth). Comments related to writing skills made up the majority in 65% of the assignments, whereas ‘subject content’ was the most frequent type of comment in 30%. Only fewer than 5% of the cases focused primarily on motivational comments. 44% of the assignments did not contain any motivational comments at all (Fig.  2 ). As for the depth of in‐text feedback, level 1 (acknowledgement) was most common in 44% of the assignments, level 2 (correction) in only 16% and level 3 (explanation) in 28%. 26% pieces of work did not contain any explanatory comments at all (Fig.  3 ).

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Percentage of in‐text comments in each category for each individual piece of work. Feedback that did not contain any in‐text comments has not been included (Note: a few comments could not be allocated a category and/or level, therefore not all bars reach 100%). (A) Second‐year essay ( n  = 21), and (B) third‐year literature review ( n  = 30).

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Percentage of in‐text comments at each level for each individual piece of work (Level 1 = acknowledgement, Level 2 = Correction, Level 3 = Explanation). Feedback that did not contain any in‐text comments has not been included. (Note: a few comments could not be allocated a category and/or level, therefore not all bars reach 100%). (A) Second‐year essay ( n  = 21), and (B) third‐year literature review ( n  = 30).

Comparing the frequency of the additional in‐text feedback characteristics (specific, easy‐win, feedforward), there was much less variation. In almost all assignments (96%), the majority of the in‐text comments were specific. In fact, in 70% of the assignments, 80% or more of all in‐text comments were classified as specific. There was no assignment that did not contain any specific feedback. However, easy‐win feedback was not as frequently found: in only 4% of the cases was easy‐win feedback the most common category. Still, in 35% of the assignments at least half of the in‐text comments were classified as easy‐wins. By contrast, feedforward comments were consistently infrequent with only 4% of the assignments containing 50% or more of their in‐text feedback comments assigned to this category. 38% of the feedback pieces had no feedforward comments at all (Fig.  4 ).

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Percentage of in‐text comments that were specific, easy or feedforward in each individual piece of work (Note that feedback comments could be characterised as neither, one or more of the three categories ‘specific’, ‘easy‐win’, ‘feedforward’). (A) Second‐year essay ( n  = 21), and (B) third‐year literature review ( n  = 30).

Students’ views

The second part of the study focused on students’ views of what constitutes good feedback. We used a questionnaire, interviews and a focus group.


Altogether, 46 questionnaires were analysed. When asked to explain in their own words what they found good about the feedback they had received, 84% of the respondents said that their feedback had been specific, 45% liked that the feedback comments were easy to follow‐up, and 31% thought that their feedback would help them in future assignments. In addition, 16% mentioned that in this assignment they were able to discuss their feedback face‐to‐face with their marker. When asked how their feedback could be even better, the most common suggestion was that the feedback could be more specific, but only 16% said this. 10% thought that the feedback could refer more to the marking criteria, and 8% would have liked examples of good work. Regarding the question what they did in response to their feedback, all respondents said that they had addressed those comments that were easy to implement to improve their essay or future final report.

Most of the seven interviewed students appeared to be high achievers. All of them had a keen interest in receiving feedback, and they appreciated that feedback will be constructive in order to help them improve. Even if they were reticent to engage with the feedback directly after receiving it for a day or so, they would not be discouraged by a high number of comments and suggestions for improvements.

Interviewees consistently said that good feedback should specifically and clearly point out what they have done well, but also to tell them what they have done wrong. For the interviewed students, it was also important that feedback tells them how they can improve or ‘fix it’. A number of students commented on verbal, face‐to‐face discussions being helpful after receiving their written feedback. This would allow for clarification and discussion of details. Students said they would generally engage least with their written feedback when they received their expected grade. Where they underachieved, they had a look at their feedback to see what they have done wrong, or if they got an unexpected high grade, then they looked at their feedback to find out why (Table  4 ).

The main themes identified in student responses to the main interview questions. Seven students were interviewed, and the names listed here are fictitious.

Six students took part in the session, and none of them had contributed to the other parts of this study. The focus group explored students’ general views on feedback (for typical quotes, see Table  5 ). The first discussion topic (What does ideal feedback look like?) revealed an additional aspect to the feedback discussed in the feedback analysis and interviews, namely the importance of feedback during the drafting stage of an assignment. Once students received the assignment brief, they would start working on the assignment using the marking criteria to see how to shape the assignment. It is at this drafting stage, when students would value feedback most. This feedback helps them to get on the right track, making sure that they are compiling an assignment that was envisaged by those who set it.

Focus group – Student views on what makes feedback ‘good’.

When asked about their idea of ‘ideal feedback’ after grading, students agreed on the following key characteristics (wish list), presented in order of students’ preference:

  • Justification of the mark: students find it useful to know how the marker arrived at their grade. This is about being aware of what the grading means and how to achieve better grades.
  • Positive reinforcement: emotionally, students value positive reinforcement of work done well. It makes it easier for them to receive criticism. Another reason for students signalling a need for praise is that they felt it validated their work. Such reinforcement has the power of making explicit what it is that they are doing is positive; they are not always aware if they are doing something well. It helps them ‘learn’ what it is they are doing well and then being able to reuse that strategy again in other places.
  • How to improve: Ideal feedback for students includes instructions how they can improve their work in specific ways. Students also find it valuable if we tell them the reasons why the improvement is necessary. This is particularly helpful if it is linked to the marking criteria.
  • Feedback should be detailed, clear and specific. Students need to be told exactly what they have done well and why; or details of what is lacking and why. Students said that if the feedback was just saying ‘good’, they would not be able to tell what it is that they did well. Another important aspect is that comments specify the location in the text that the feedback refers to.
  • Honest and constructive criticism: students emphasise that feedback only works if it is honest. Sometimes students themselves know if their work is not as good, and in this case, reinforcing this is justified.
  • Advice on improving content and structure or argumentation of assignments is seen as much more valuable than having grammatical or stylistic errors pointed out to them.

The aim of this study was to find out what our students want from feedback, and based on that, to develop a guide for markers. To achieve this, we firstly asked students to share with us an example of good written (electronic) feedback they had received. We did not specify what we meant by ‘good’, other than that they should have found the feedback useful. We then analysed the feedback examples to see if there were any common characteristics that would help define good feedback. We found that the quantity of the written feedback varied hugely. For example, students with as little as 40 or 50 words of feedback summary (and no in‐text comments) still thought their feedback was good. Clearly, it was not a matter of ‘the more the better’ for the students. This echoes Lilly et al .’s [ 24 ] finding that the length of feedback does not in itself matter so much to students.

With regard to the composition of the good feedback provided as in‐text comments, the majority of these comments related to writing skills, followed by subject content‐focused comments, and only a relatively small percentage was praise. The prevalence of writing skills‐related feedback confirms Hyland’s study [ 40 ], which also found that most feedback given to students was about ‘form’ (including structuring, grammar). But the small proportion of praise found in our study was surprising, as several previous studies indicate students’ desire for praise (e.g. [ 28 , 41 ]). When Orsmond and Merry [ 42 ] analysed feedback comments, they indeed found that praise was the most frequent form of feedback. On the other hand, according to Dawson et al . [ 38 ] only a minority of students think that the purpose of feedback is to motivate students. In our study, it is possible that students’ desire for praise was satisfied via the summary comments (rather than the in‐text comments), almost all of which contained some form of praise.

We also analysed the ‘depth’ of in‐text feedback comments. Although there was a lot of variation between markers, many comments were either an acknowledgement of a mistake, or a correction; only a small number contained explanations. Glover and Brown [ 37 ] similarly analysed the depth of written feedback to students in biological and physical sciences. They found that the majority of comments addressed omissions and language issues, whereas only about 11% of comments consisted of tutor clarification. Although the latter study did not focus on feedback that was identified as good by students, this outcome indicates a tendency towards low ‘depth’ feedback. Interestingly, the study found no or little relation between the depth of feedback and the grade [ 37 ]. In our study, the majority of students did not seem to need or expect any explanations. Instead, they found it important to know how to improve. Other studies also found that students wanted constructive criticism that contained suggestions for improvement, for example by correcting errors [ 29 , 42 ]. As pointing out errors and suggesting a correction would enable students to amend their drafts, it may not be surprising that students liked this form of feedback.

The frequency of the additional feedback characteristics (specific, easy‐wins, feedforward) was less variable than the depth. Firstly, almost all in‐text comments were specific. This ties in with other studies emphasising the importance of detailed and specific feedback comments (e.g. [ 16 , 38 ]). This finding also mirrors the results of the questionnaire, where most students liked the fact that the feedback was specific. Surprisingly, much less feedback was classified as easy‐wins. Our expectation had been that students would favour easy comments, that is comments that made it easy for them to correct mistakes, for example by providing the correct information without the need for the student to do any further work on it. However, students might have a different view on what are easy‐wins. In the questionnaire, many students said that they liked the fact that comments were easy to implement and that they used them to improve their work. It is possible that students found comments easy to implement because they were specific, but were not relying on markers to provide the ‘easy fix’.

Another surprising result was that relatively few comments were classified as feedforward, that is potentially useful for future assignments in other modules. In the second‐year assignment, only 24% of the in‐text comments were feedforward. This roughly tallies with the questionnaire where only just under a third of the second‐year students said that the feedback would help with future assignments. In the third‐year assignment, even fewer (9%) comments were feedforward. We would have thought that the ability to use feedback to improve future assignments would be more important to students. Many studies identify feedforward as an essential part of effective feedback (e.g. [ 43 ]). However, it is possible that because both assignments in this study were directly related to another submission in the same module, students were focused on specific improvements, and not so much on other, unrelated assignments. Indeed, 65% of the second‐year students resubmitted their essay and all of them achieved a higher mark for their second submission (average mark increased from 65% to 73%), indicating that the students had enough information to be able to improve their essay. This ties in with Reimann et al . [ 44 ] who found that feedforward practices are often situated within current modules. In our study, it is noteworthy that even in the focus group which addressed feedback more generally, feedforward was not mentioned as an important ‘ideal feedback’ characteristic.

Overall, one of the most surprising outcomes of our analysis of good feedback examples was how much the good feedback varied in terms of quantity and many feedback characteristics. However, Poulos and Mahoney [ 27 ] state that students do not have a homogenous view on what effective feedback actually is. Orsmond and Merry [ 28 ] found that low‐ and high‐achieving students differ in their perception of feedback, which may be related to a higher degree of self‐regulation in high achievers [ 19 ]. However, a recent systematic review on feedback found conflicting results and concluded that engagement with feedback may be affected by prior experience and not only depend on students’ academic skills [ 45 ]. Bjork et al . [ 46 ] discuss that students’ judgement of their own learning is highly subjective and influenced by intuitions and beliefs. What is more, Pitt and Norton [ 47 ] argue that students vary in their emotional maturity and this, together with their grade expectations, might affect their views on and engagement with feedback. According to Lizzio and Wilson [ 48 ], feedback is most likely found to be effective by students if it is developmental, encouraging and fair. All comments that were analysed in our study could be characterised as such. Neither in‐text nor summary feedback in the examples submitted contained any negative, demoralising phrases, which could have affected students’ willingness to engage with their feedback [ 47 ].

The analysis of good feedback examples and the questionnaires was complemented by interviews and a focus group. A consistent theme in all parts of the study was that according to students, good feedback should be specific and detailed. Similarly, information about how to improve was highlighted as important during both interviews and focus group. This is mirrored by the feedback examples that mostly contained information about what students had done wrong and how to correct this. The focus group put ‘justification of mark’ at high priority. Although this was not a strong theme in the interviews, this might be due to the fact that the interviewees were mostly high achievers, whereas a justification of the mark may be more important for students who achieved disappointing results [ 49 ]. Looking at the analysed in‐text comments, these rarely justify the mark, but more than half of the feedback summaries provide this. Positive reinforcement (praise) again was identified as important in the focus group, but less so in the interviews, and very few in‐text comments praised. But as almost all the general comments contained praise, this might again have fulfilled the students’ needs.

The present study has a number of limitations that need to be kept in mind when trying to generalise the findings. Firstly, this study mainly reflects the views of students who were engaged and who had achieved good marks, ranging from 58% to 87%. We did not hear from weak or failing students, and we did not see any feedback provided to them. This may not be surprising, as Jones et al . [ 50 ] point out that high achieving students are more likely to complete questionnaires about feedback. However, this means that we cannot draw any conclusion regarding feedback that weaker students might find useful, and therefore, the findings of this study might not be representative of all students. Secondly, this study only involved second‐ and third (final)‐year students, and there is a possibility that students in other years have different views. Thirdly, this study only involved students from the life sciences, and we do not know if the results also apply to students in other disciplines. Fourthly, we did not collect information about student characteristics (e.g. English as second language or specific learning disabilities), and therefore, we cannot comment on feedback characteristics that specific student groups might have found useful.

In addition, it should be remembered that both assignments had an inbuilt option for improvement (resubmit, use for final), which is not necessarily typical for written assignments. Some students’ written feedback was complemented by face‐to‐face discussion, so they might have confounded this interaction with their written feedback, rating their feedback overall as good although the written feedback alone might not have been sufficient. Also, there are other ways to analyse feedback: for example, Kumar and Stracke [ 51 ] used feedback categories based on the three functions of speech (referential, directive or expressive). And finally, this study is entirely based on students’ perception of what constitutes good feedback. We did not analyse any impact of feedback on students’ learning, and therefore, we cannot comment on the actual effectiveness of the feedback.

Conclusions and recommendations

This study has used a combination of mixed methods (drawing from four data resources: feedback analysis, questionnaire, interviews and a focus group) to identify characteristics of good feedback based on student perceptions. This high degree of triangulation allows us to suggest a list of recommendations for staff wishing to compose written feedback on assignments that students find useful. It is clear from our study that for feedback to be perceived as good by students, quality is more important than quantity. What is also clear is that there are many ways of providing good feedback. Although this study does not provide a ‘model method’ for feedback, it does contribute to the development of feedback models by presenting aspect of feedback that are valued by students.

According to students, good feedback:

  • Is detailed, clear and specific and relates to specific areas of their work.
  • Tells students exactly how to improve. Some students also find it valuable if we tell them the reasons why the improvement is necessary.
  • Is honest and constructive.
  • Includes positive reinforcement. Praise for aspects of the work done well makes it easier for them to receive criticism. It also reinforces positive aspects of their work, explaining what it is they’ve done well and should keep doing.
  • Justifies the mark. Knowing how the marker arrived at their grade helps students understand what the grading means and how to achieve better grades.

Although advice on subject content, structure or argumentation is seen as more valuable than having grammatical or stylistic errors pointed out to them, some students also struggle with language and find corrections helpful.

In addition, students highly appreciate a feedback opportunity during the drafting stage. This enables them to clarify the task and make sure they are on the right track.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Author contributions

SV conceived, and SV and LVM designed the project. SV, LVM and TVA collected the data; SV and TVA analysed the data. SV wrote the manuscript, and LVM and TVA commented on multiple versions of the manuscript.

Supporting information

Appendix S1. Screenshot of an example assignment in Turnitin feedback studio. An example of an in‐text comment is shown. Assessors can highlight specific text passages and place a comment directly within the text of the assignment. Summary comments are usually provided in a specific section or placed at the end of the assignment.


This study was funded by a Learning and Teaching Fellowship at the University of Liverpool, UK, awarded to one of the authors (SV) in 2016.


  • Tips & Guides

Providing Effective Feedback on Student Papers

  • by Amelia Kennedy
  • Posted on September 1, 2019 April 27, 2021

Providing effective feedback on student papers is one of the most challenging yet rewarding parts of teaching. In general, I’ve found that my students appreciate substantive feedback and nearly always incorporate it into subsequent papers. Watching students grow more confident in their writing voices over the course of the semester is immensely satisfying.

Yet offering helpful feedback is also a definite challenge. How can you phrase criticism clearly and constructively? What elements of paper writing should you emphasize? How can you be sure your students will even read your feedback?!

Well, you have no control over that last one, but assuming that (most of) your students read your comments, there are several strategies you can use to make those comments as helpful as possible.

Have a clear focus

It’s tempting to address every single writing issue all at once. You receive a paper with a weak argument, poor structure, fantastical leaps of logic, sloppy citations, and awkward phrasing, and naturally you want to mop up all these issues. So you fill every page with red ink until it’s almost unreadable.

The problem? This kind of super extensive feedback will almost certainly overwhelm the student . Instead, it’s better to focus on one or two major areas for improvement.

Perhaps for the first paper of the semester, you focus on argument , a fundamental component of most college papers. Is the student’s argument specific, debatable, and evidence-based? Then for the second paper, you focus on organization : Are paragraphs laid out in a sensible order? Does each paragraph have a topic sentence and one main point? The third paper might be all about working with sources and evidence : How well has the student analyzed primary sources? How well incorporated are secondary sources? Is everything cited properly? And then the final paper might bring all these different elements—argument, organization, sources—together.

Tell students upfront what you will be looking for in their papers. Then keep this focus in mind when formulating comments on each paper. If you’re concentrating on argument, provide direct feedback on each student’s argument.

For example: “Your argument is strong, clearly stated, and supported by ample evidence.”

Or: “Your argument needs further refinement. As of now, it is more of an observation or statement of fact than a debatable argument.”

Or: “You’re on the right track, but try narrowing down the scope of your argument.”

Add further details based on the specifics of the assignment and the papers you receive.

Consider providing a rubric

Again, it’s a good idea to tell students what you want from them, and a rubric is a clear way of doing this. A rubric outlines the major components of the paper and your expectations. You can make your own or adapt one your find online. You can find some sample rubrics here:

  • Research paper rubric
  • College writing rubric
  • Collection of rubrics serving a variety of purposes
  • Another collection of sample rubrics

One major advantage of rubrics is that they encourage consistency and transparency. They help you, as the instructor, grade efficiently. And they also help students learn how to evaluate their own work and self-correct issues as they arise.

Provide specific suggestions in the margins

I generally avoid writing in marginal and in-text comments during a first read-through (with the possible exception of correcting grammatical errors). I like to get a sense of the paper first, then go back and add comments where appropriate.

Point out sentences or areas that are confusing to you as a reader. Does the student need to add a transition, clarify a confusing passage, or respond better to a counterargument? Similarly, point out specific areas that are well-executed. If a student deploys an effective transition, defines terms clearly, or offers a strong rebuttal, say so!

You can also ask questions to prompt your students to think more deeply about their arguments. Is a paragraph really vague or confusing? Ask a question to encourage the student to clarify things. Does the argument fail to take a relevant primary source into account? Ask why this source was excluded or how its inclusion might alter the overall argument.

Distinguish between global and local areas of improvement

In general, you’ll want to emphasize global concerns (or “ higher-order ” issues), which encompass the paper as a whole. Does the paper fulfill assignment requirements? Does it have a solid argument? Is the argument supported by sufficient evidence that is arranged in a logical order?

When writing your feedback, reflect on the key global takeaway for the paper. What (if anything) is the biggest area to improve? Or conversely, what does the paper do especially well?

Local concerns (or “lower-order” issues), on the other hand, have more to do with sentence-level issues. Is the paper grammatically sound and stylistically pleasing? Are the citations correctly formatted? Your feedback will likely also include suggestions for improvement on these fronts. If a paper has numerous local issues, try to concentrate on just a few at a time.

Write a final, holistic comment

Your final remarks should take a broad, global view of the paper and give a balanced assessment of its strengths and weaknesses. Avoid overly judgmental comments (e.g.: “You clearly did not spend enough time on this paper”) and stick to the paper at hand. Broadly speaking, what does the paper do well? What could it do better?

Try to keep your final remarks focused by resisting the temptation to cover everything. Stick to just a few main suggestions. For example, you might evaluate the student’s overall argument and structure (global issues), then note a recurring issue with citation format (local issue).

If possible, assign multiple papers or drafts

Ideally, your class design will allow for either multiple papers or multiple drafts of one longer paper. This will give your students the chance to apply your feedback, and you’ll be better able to track their progress over the course of the semester. Students are more likely to take feedback seriously if they are given opportunities for revision.

References and further reading:

Brad Hughes, “ Questioning Assumptions : What Makes for Effective Feedback on Student Writing?” University of Wisconsin—Madison.

“ Commenting on Student Writing ,” Teaching Center, Washington University in St. Louis.

“ Giving Feedback on Student Writing ,” Sweetland Center for Writing, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, University of Michigan.

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student assignment feedback example

Amelia Kennedy

Amelia Kennedy is a PhD candidate in History at Yale University. She has served as a Teaching Fellow for courses on Medieval Europe, the Hellenistic World, Eastern Europe, and the History of Science and Medicine. As a 2016 Lead Instructor for Yale Young Global Scholars, she has also designed and taught high school seminars on the Medical Humanities.

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Accomplishment Report on Catch Up Friday


Catch Up Friday, an initiative launched to provide students with additional support and resources to complete assignments, reinforce learning, and engage in enrichment activities, has significantly impacted our academic community. This report highlights the achievements and progress made through this initiative over the past semester.

Objectives of Catch Up Friday

  • To reduce the backlog of incomplete assignments and projects.
  • To enhance student understanding of difficult concepts through targeted tutoring.
  • To offer enrichment activities that complement the standard curriculum.


  • Over 90% of students successfully cleared their backlog of assignments, resulting in a noticeable improvement in overall class grades.
  • Special tutoring sessions were organized, focusing on subjects identified as challenging. Post-session assessments showed a 75% improvement in student comprehension.
  • A variety of enrichment activities were introduced, including science experiments, creative writing workshops, and coding bootcamps, attended by 85% of the student body.

Student Feedback

Feedback collected from students indicated a high level of satisfaction with Catch Up Friday, particularly appreciating the opportunity to clarify doubts, catch up on missed work, and engage in diverse learning experiences.

Challenges Encountered

  • Scheduling conflicts for some students.
  • Initial resistance from students overwhelmed by the concept.

Strategies for Improvement

  • Implementing a more flexible schedule to accommodate all students.
  • Continuous communication of the benefits and success stories of Catch Up Friday to motivate participation.

Catch Up Friday has made a substantial difference in our academic environment, directly contributing to enhanced student performance and engagement. Moving forward, we aim to refine this initiative, making it an integral part of our educational framework.

Date of Report : February 21, 2024

Compiled by : The Academic Team

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