Audrey Lundahl
Higher Education
Material Type:
Student Guide
  • Discussion
  • Feedback
  • Grading
  • Not Reviewed
    Creative Commons Attribution
    Media Formats:
    Downloadable docs

    Providing Effective Student Feedback


    This guide includes tips and best practices designed to help you: 

    • Write valuable grading comments on student assignments

    • Use varied methods to give general feedback to the whole class

    • Facilitate effective online discussions


    This guide includes tips and best practices designed to help you: 

    • Write valuable grading comments on student assignments

    • Use varied methods to give general feedback to the whole class

    • Facilitate effective online discussions

    Providing Valuable Feedback on Graded Assignments

    Providing meaningful feedback for students can greatly improve their performance, achievement, and development. Effective feedback, then, is essential to the learning process. Whether on a graded quiz, essay, presentation, or project, learning to give valuable feedback can help students become life-long learners. 

    Tips for giving valuable feedback: 

    1. Focus on formative feedback. 

    The more typical way of understanding why we assess students is summative assessment, which attempts to measure how well a student has learned the material. However, it may be more useful for instructors to shift their feedback toward formative assessment, which is aimed at future performance rather than past performance. Formative assessment can help students become more independent learners because it gives them a framework for tracking their own progress. 

    1. Offer ongoing and consistent feedback. 

    In order for formative feedback to be most effective, students need opportunities to apply feedback to improve throughout the course. In order to build in a consistent feedback loop, it may be useful to include more smaller, low-stakes assignments throughout the course. Using grading rubrics will also help you give consistent feedback and speed up the grading process. 

    1. Be specific and offer ways to improve. 

    In order for students to apply feedback, it needs to be actionable, goal-oriented, and tied to specific learning objectives. When giving feedback, it is helpful to link it specifically to already established course learning objectives. This will also ensure feedback is consistent. It is helpful to directly reference the prompts, rubric components, and give an action-plan for how to improve their work. 

    1. Be encouraging

    Although it is important to give students specific feedback about what exactly they need to do to improve, it is equally important to let students know what they did well. Being mindful about how you give feedback as an instructor can ensure that students are motivated to improve, rather than nervous and self-conscious. Encouraging language, such as letting students know they have the skills to improve, can help them stay motivated. It may be helpful to “sandwich” improvement feedback between positive feedback.

    Giving Formative Feedback in Online Discussion Boards

    Discussion boards can foster collaborative knowledge building. However, to achieve this goal, instructors must become active facilitators. This means that instructors are involved in the discussion forum in the form of reading and replying to posts. 

    Tips for Facilitating Online Discussions: 

    1. Give examples of appropriate responses.

    Before discussion boards begin, it can be helpful to give students examples of what a discussion post looks like. This gives you an opportunity to model deep engagement with course materials, using sources, and thinking critically. 

    1. Keep conversations on track.

    It is common for discussion posts to veer off track. As the instructor, you can respectfully interrupt any distracting dialogue and reset the conversation by asking clarifying questions or providing additional directions on the prompt. 

    1. Encourage deeper inquiry and application.

    Encouraging students to continue to think about ideas can help them apply course concepts outside of the course. Instructors could encourage application and deeper inquiry in several ways, such as pointing to current events, connecting to other concepts, or discussing potential impacts of the ideas discussed. You can also use your knowledge and experience as the subject matter expert to give insights that go beyond the texts. 

    Using Emails and Announcements to Give Class Feedback

    Whole-class feedback can be an effective and time-saving way to respond to student work. It can also help build community by promoting the idea that everyone is learning together. When giving feedback to the whole class, it is important to strike a balance between making sure feedback is relevant to everyone while also not singling anyone out. 

    Tips and Methods for Giving General Feedback:

    1. Summarize what students have learned so far and highlight what’s coming.

    It is useful to begin whole-class feedback by giving students a brief overview of what they have learned so far. A brief summary of course content can help students to better retain important concepts and take-aways. Whole-class feedback can also be an opportunity to scaffold concepts by discussing connections with what you’ve covered so far and what is to come.

    1. Make it a discussion rather than a lecture.

    You can turn whole-class feedback into a student-centered activity where everyone can work together to discuss and brainstorm revisions and areas for improvement, as well as what was done well. It may be useful after these large group discussions to give students an opportunity to revise past work or focus on how to avoid similar areas on the next assignment. 

    1. Highlight resources available in the course for deeper understanding.

    If students are still struggling, it is important that they know there are resources available to help them master the material.


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    Developing Deep Reflection in Discussion Boards - Center for Teaching and Learning: Wiley Education Services. (2020, September 01). Retrieved October 16, 2020, from

    Gooblar, D. (n.d.). Student Feedback Matters-and It Goes Beyond Grading. Retrieved March 19, 2014, from

    Stenger, M. (2014, August 06). 5 Research-Based Tips for Providing Students with Meaningful Feedback. Retrieved October 16, 2020, from

    Wolfley, L. (2016, September 13). Providing Whole-Class Feedback, Sept. 2016. Retrieved October 16, 2020, from