Feedback is most strongly linked to improved student learning (Hattie, 2009).

7 Principles of good feedback practice

(based on Juwah, Macfarlane-Dick, Matther, Ricol, Ross, Smith, 2004)



Resources / examples

1. Effective feedback facilitates the development of self-assessment (reflection) in learning
  • Allow students to request the kinds of feedback they'd like when they submit assessments
  • Students identify the strengths and weaknesses in their own work in relation to criteria or standards before handing it in for teacher feedback
  • Students select work to include in a portfolio and reflect on their achievements
  • Students set own achievement milestones for a task and reflect back on progress and forward to the next stage of action
  • Students give feedback on each other’s work (peer feedback)
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2. Effective feedback encourages teacher and peer dialogue around learning
  • One-minute papers (Angelo and Cross, 1990)
  • Students review feedback comments in tutorials, discuss with peers and suggest strategies to improve performance next time;
  • students share one or two examples of feedback comments that they found useful and to explain how they helped
  • having students give each other descriptive feedback on their work in relation to published criteria before submission
  • group projects.

3. Effective feedback helps clarify what good performance is
Students can only achieve a learning goal if they understand that goal, assume some ownership of it, and can assess progress (Sadler, 1989; Black and Wiliam, 1998). Many studies have shown that it is difficult to make explicit assessment criteria and standards through written documentation or through verbal descriptions in class (Rust, Price and O’Donovan, 2003). Most criteria for complex tasks are difficult to articulate; they are often ‘tacit’ and unarticulated in the mind of the teacher.
  • Use carefully constructed criteria sheets and performance level definitions
  • Use exemplar assignments with attached feedback
  • Increase discussion and reflection about criteria and standards in class
  • Involve students in assessment exercises where they mark or comment on other students’ work in relation to defined criteria and standards
  • Conduct workshops where students in collaboration with their teacher devise their own assessment criteria for a piece of work
  • Provide summaries of main areas of difficulty / misconception

  • Prioritising feedback – depending on learning objectives, level of students, what they most need to improve, time available. Determine what info will be most useful to students at any particular point in time and prioritise info in your feedback. Usually not best to give feedback on all aspects of performance. E.g offer feedback on a single dimension at a time. Helps students engage in targeted practice.
  • Balance strengths and weaknesses in your feedback. Incl. areas where they have improved. ‘Sandwich’ feedback – kiss, kick, kiss
  • Design frequent opportunities to give feedback – more tasks of smaller length or smaller scope. Also makes for a more manageable workload.
    • Provide feedback at group level – most common errors, then discuss. Show two examples of ‘a’ level work – what makes it HD level?
    • Provide real time feedback at group level – e.g. clickers, socrative, cards. Use to glean correct / incorrect answers and decide how to give appropriate feedback to class. If lots of incorrect feedback, might want to get them to discuss in groups before polling again. Common misconceptions, then might want to provide further explanation or examples.
    • Incorporate peer feedback – use explicit guidelines, criteria or a rubric to help students provide constructive feedback. Also helps students become better at identifying good work and diagnosing own problems. Lets you increase feedback without increasing load. BUT to be effective need to clearly explain what it is, the rationale behind it, how students should engage in it, and give them adequate practice with feedback on it.
4. Effective feedback provides opportunities to close the gap between current and desired performance.
The only way to tell if learning results from feedback is for students to make some kind of response to complete the feedback loop (Sadler, 1989). This is one of the most often forgotten aspects of formative assessment. Unless students are able to use the feedback to produce improved work, through for example, re-doing the same assignment, neither they nor those giving the feedback will know that it has been effective (Boud, 2000, p158).

Specific strategies to help students use external feedback to close the gap are:
  • to increase the number of opportunities for resubmission;
  • for teachers to model the strategies that might be used to close a performance gap in class (for example, model how to structure an essay when given a new question);
  • teachers might also write down some ‘action points’ alongside the normal feedback they provide. This would identify for students what they should do next time to improve their performance;
  • a more effective strategy might be to involve students in identifying their own action points in class based on the feedback they have just received. This would integrate the process into the teaching and learning situation and involve the students more actively in the generation and planned use of feedback;
    • require students to specify how they used feedback in subsequent work. Students often don’t see connections between past and current work. Helps them see complete learning cycle. E.g. submit drafts, milestones in a project
5. Effective feedback delivers high quality information to students about their learning.
Feedback needs to be relevant to the task in hand and to student needs. Despite this, research shows that feedback information is often about strengths and weaknesses in handed-in work or about aspects of performance that are easy to identify (such as spelling mistakes) rather than about aspects that are of greater importance to academic learning but that are more abstract and difficult to define (strength of argument, for example). Long lists of criteria can encourage students to see the assessment as a ‘tick the box’ instead of a holistic task. Too much feedback can overwhelm. Non-focused feedback (e.g. on items of less importance, such as on spelling instead of on essay structure) can confuse.

Strategies to improve feedback drawn from research include:
  • making sure that feedback is provided in relation to pre-defined criteria but paying particular attention to the number of criteria;
  • providing feedback soon after a submission;
  • providing corrective advice, not just information on strengths/weaknesses;
  • limiting the amount of feedback so that it is used;
  • prioritising areas for improvement;
  • providing online tests so that feedback can be accessed anytime, any place and as many times as students wish;
  • focusing on students with greatest difficulties.
6. Effective feedback encourages positive motivational beliefs and self-esteem.
Butler (1988) argued that students paid less attention to the comments when given marks and consequently did not try to use the comments to make improvements.
Motivation and self-esteem are more likely to be enhanced when a course has many low-stakes tasks with feedback geared to providing information about progress and achievement rather than high stakes summative assessment tasks where information is only about success or failure or about how students compare with peers. Other strategies that would help encourage high levels of motivation to succeed include:

  • providing marks on written work only after students have responded to feedback comments;
  • allocating time for students to re-write selected pieces of work – this would help change students’ expectations about purpose;
  • automated testing with feedback;
  • drafts and resubmissions.
7. Effective feedback provides information to teachers that can be used to help shape the teaching.
A variety of strategies are available to teachers to help generate and collate quality information about student learning and help them decide how to use it. For example:
  • one-minute papers where students carry out a small assessment task and hand this in anonymously at the end of a class, such as... What was the main point of this lecture? What question remains outstanding for you at the end of this teaching session?;
  • having students request the feedback they would like when they make an assignment submission;
  • having students identify where they are having difficulties when they hand in assessed work;
  • asking students in groups to identify ‘a question worth asking’, based on prior study, that they would like to explore for a short time at the beginning of the next tutorial;
  • quick evaluation strategies at key points in teaching. Quick test cycles (Angelo and Cross, 1990)
(Juwah, Macfarlane-Dick, Matthew, Nicol, Ross, Smith, 2004)

In fact, this principle is the most important. When teachers seek, or are at least open to, feedback from students as to what students know, what they understand, where they have misconceptions, when they are not engaged – then teaching and learning can be synchronised and powerful. Feedback to teachers helps to make learning powerful.


If you are looking for a single resource on feedback, go to:

There are not only lots of research-based ideas and strategies and case studies, but they are discipline specific as well.

Also look at: (assessment standards knowledge exchange – lots of great handouts here on quick and effective ways to improve assessment – handouts for students too) – Direct link to handouts: (FLI’s collection of resources on assessment)