• Feedback for learning needs to be based on clear communication and strategies.
  • Teachers have a role in helping student recognise and understand feedback.
  • There are online tools available to support marking and feedback.

On this page

Why is feedback important? Designing for feedback Providing effective feedback Feedback strategies

Why is feedback important?

Student talking to someone

Feedback is an integral part of the learning process. Feedback has been shown to have more impact on student results than any other teaching strategy (The Australasian Society for Evidence Based Teaching, 2017; Jones & Blankenship, 2014). This is why it is particularly important that good quality feedback is effectively communicated to the student.

Providing the right feedback at the right time can lead not only to increased student satisfaction, but also improved learning outcomes for students (Naylor et al, 2014, referring to the work of Ramsden 2003; Hattie and Timperley 2007; Shute 2008). In this regard keep in mind the different forms of learning that your students will engage in, and the sequence of these over time. Your feedback should aim to link current learning activities with the next, noting that as this progression unfolds there is often a conceptual change for students to manage along the way; from knowing something, to understanding it, and then to developing an ability to apply this in practice.

Designing for feedback

Perhaps the most important way to think about feedback is to consider how to make it an inherent part of the unit or course design process.

Things to consider when designing for feedback

  • How and when will students get feedback on their efforts?
  • Which feedback sources (peers, self, lecturer, expert) can add value to learning in the unit and when is best for this to occur?
  • How can you raise awareness amongst your students about the multiple sources of feedback that are possible and how they can each benefit learning?
  • What is the best way to encourage self-evaluation and self-regulation skills in students? (Boud & Molloy, 2012).
  • How can you encourage students to use and apply the feedback they receive in subsequent activities or assessments?
  • How can the lecturers/tutors gain diagnostic feedback on student learning in their unit and when is the most effective time(s) to do this?

In the following webinar recording, Associate Professor Michael Henderson (Monash University) and Associate Professor Phillip Dawson (Deakin University) provide a brief masterclass of feedback designs and discuss current educator and student experiences of feedback and strategies to develop and support effective feedback designs. We particularly recommend the 20 min segment from 5:17-25:25.

One strategy to consider when designing for feedback is to use nested activities/assessments, where one assessment task (or activity) builds on a previous one (Boud & Molloy, 2012; Naylor et al, 2014). This succession of tasks actively encourages students to demonstrate their development by applying the feedback they received on an earlier task (Naylor et al, 2014). In this way, feedback is connected and aligned within the unit across both formative and summative contexts (Douglas et al, 2016).

Where it is not practical to align the feedback across summative assessment tasks, formative activities and tasks can be used as a way to enable nested feedback. In addition, the feedback does not necessarily need to be teacher-based feedback, it can include peer-review feedback and self-evaluation. Multiple sources of feedback should be encouraged to enable self-evaluation and self-determination.

Providing effective feedback

The literature (The Higher Education Academy 2014; Getzlaf et al 2009; Evans 2013; Douglas et al 2016; O’Donovan, Rust & Price, 2016) points to a number of student issues with feedback:

  • Students often don’t recognise feedback when they receive it
  • When students do recognise something as feedback, they often misunderstand it, misinterpret it, or simply don’t act upon it.

There are different kinds of feedback you can provide and, it’s worthwhile using a variety. For example, there is a difference between praise, critique, criticism and guidance.

Teachers have a responsibility to help students identify when feedback is given and know how they can use it to improve learning to achieve intended and desirable learning outcomes within their units of study (Douglas et al, 2016). Henderson et al (2018) encourage teachers to develop students’ feedback literacy by emphasising the purpose of feedback and different ways to implement and use feedback for learning.

Therefore, part of the academic’s role is to help students:

  1. Identify feedback
  2. Seek feedback as active learners
  3. Evaluate the feedback they receive, and
  4. Apply their learnings from the feedback in the future.

To enable students to effectively engage with feedback for learning teachers should develop strategies for improving students’ understanding of feedback.

Ways to engage students Implementation
Communicate explicitly

Be explicit at the beginning of unit about:

  • what types of feedback students can expect in the unit (e.g. written, oral, peer feedback, automated);
  • when they will receive it (on the spot during an activity or later); and
  • in what format and channel the feedback will be delivered;
  • what forms of feedback will be used (praise, critique, guidance, summarising and forward-looking).

Consider co-developing and co-constructing a plan with students (Getzlaf et al, 2009). Consulting with students to determine what feedback they would find most useful.

Considered tone

Feedback should be balanced, and the tone should be encouraging and informative. Conceptualised as a “praise – critique – praise” sandwich. The overall message should encourage and reward but retain a balance that ensures the overall mark and grade is reflected in the qualitative comments. The ‘overall tone’ matters, giving feedback in a balanced tone will enable student engagement. This tone is established by blending feedback of different kinds, including praise, critique, encouragement, advice.

Encourage self-regulation

Encourage and support students to be active learners that seek feedback and work towards building self-evaluation and self-regulation skills, under guidance from their lecturers (Boud & Molloy, 2012; Carless et al, 2011; Evans 2013).

Self-regulated learning: “students can be described as self-regulated to the degree that they are metacognitively, motivationally, and behaviourally active participants in their own learning process” (Zimmerman, 1989). Self-regulated learning is something that develops through the academic actively encouraging it. Few students have this metacognitive, motivational, and active approach at the start, but will develop it if they see it as beneficial.

Feedback as dialogue

Discuss with students that feedback, like learning, is a conversation and not a one-way transmission from teacher to student (Boud & Molloy, 2012). You could consider initiating a conversation with your students about their specific feedback needs.

Feedback from multiple sources

Remind students that feedback can come from multiple sources - not only the teacher but also from other experts, their peers, themselves and may even be mediated by technology, such as automated feedback on an online quiz. Raise student awareness that anything they can use to improve their learning is feedback (Naylor et al, 2014). Students continually learn from their interactions with you and multiple other sources and may, in some instances, interpret a non-response as feedback. All interactions and activities can be seen as an opportunity for students to improve their learning.

Providing Effective Feedback Online

There are several ways to effectively provide feedback online to students. ACU has different online assessment and marking options, such as Turnitin and LEO assessment. Becoming proficient in using these online tools can help you to communicate consistent and targeted feedback to students in an efficient, time effective manner. The following video provides details on how to set up Quick Marks in Turnitin. For more information on online assessment and feedback see Assessments in Blended Learning.

Ways to use Quick Marks in Turnitin to provide feedback:

  • Create your own library of comments that are targeted to an assessment task or common areas that students need to work on.
  • Link comments to the set rubric to help students understanding and engage with the feedback.

Feedback strategies

The following tabs contain strategies which you can adapt to increase the type and frequency of feedback offered to students.

Clarify and Model Assessment Expectation

Assessment – before student submission

  • Provide ‘model’ responses or exemplars. Review these with students so they understand how and why it is an exemplar. While doing this, refer to the assessment criteria. You have the option to extend the activity further by then providing the feedback given to the exemplar response along with the subsequent piece of assessment that shows how the same student applied the feedback and developed their learning.
  • Provided annotated examples of previous student work, this needs to be done in an appropriate way.
  • Explain to students how they will receive feedback on summative assessments. Discuss the assessment criteria and marking practices; this can even be recorded as a video and added to the LEO unit.

Assessment – after grading

  • Offer a summary of class strengths/weaknesses after a summative assessment. This summary could also be provided in class, or online in LEO in the form of a recorded video, podcast or announcement.
  • Provide detailed results of any mid-semester exams. Review and discuss the answers with cohort.
  • Students provide feedback on feedback received. Once a piece of assessment is marked and the lecturer provides feedback, students review the feedback and reflect on
    1. to what extent they agree with it, and
    2. how they will use the feedback to develop further in the unit/course of study.

    Students discuss their responses with their peers. The students then submit the feedback-on-feedback. The lecturer follows up with individual students if necessary.

Teacher to Cohort Feedback


  • Use polls (in class or online) and provide feedback to the group on their responses.
  • Provide a weekly summary (in class, via email, or via an announcements post) of the key learning areas / issues and how students appear to be engaging with these.
  • Summary of class strengths/weaknesses after an activity.
  • Invite a guest expert to participate in forum or online live classroom.
  • During class time, use the 1-minute paper activity to gauge student understanding of the key ideas / concepts covered during the class. To run this activity, provide students with a question to answer and 1 – 3 minutes to prepare a written response. Students can volunteer to read their response, or the lecturer collects the anonymous responses. The lecturer reviews the responses to gauge whether students have grasped the essential concept / issues. The lecture can provide feedback to the group at the same lecture or at the next lecture (Wilsman, 2013).
  • Another method to gauge student understanding of a topic/idea/issue is to use the Think-Pair-Share activity in class. The lecturer poses a question or problem, and students have a moment to consider their response. They then share their response with another student. Selected pairs of students then present their thoughts to the entire class for discussion and feedback from the lecturer / rest of the class (Wilsman, 2013).
Feedback to individuals

Activities and assessments

  • Comment on early drafts of an assignment . This could be implemented through a planning step, which is incorporated into the assessment process; enabling students to get feedback and allowing for misunderstanding of the task to be corrected.
  • Allow individual consultations
  • Provide specific comments on assessments
  • Provide a summary of rationale for a grade received
  • Automated feedback through online self-assessment quiz
  • Create adaptive learning material, where student responses to questions determine what feedback they receive, as well as what material and further questions they are presented with.
Peer to Peer Feedback

Activities and assessments

Design activities in which the students provide feedback to each other in peer review tasks. Providing feedback to others improves learning outcomes for the giver of the feedback. It also works towards improving self-regulation and self-evaluation skills as learners.

For peer-to-peer activities to be focused and purposeful they need to be guided. Be sure to provide clear directions and guidance in structuring the peer review (Hepplestone et al, 2011; O’Donovan, Rust & Price, 2016; Boud & Molloy, 2012; The Higher Education Academy, 2014). The peer review process needs to be moderated to make sure misconceptions are not proliferated.

Peer review and peer grading can also be integrated into Assessments. Students provide feedback to each other on an item of assessment.

Student self-evaluation

Activities and assessments

  • Create self-assessment opportunities in the unit for students to reflect upon or measure themselves against specified criteria.
  • Self-assessment reflections may be part of an activity or a submitted assignment.

Other resources

Boud, D., Molloy, E. (2012). Rethinking models of feedback for learning: the challenge of design. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 38, 2013:6. Retrieved http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02602938.2012.691462

Carless, D., Salter, D., Yang, M., & Lam, J. (2011). Developing sustainable feedback practices. Studies in Higher Education, 36:4. Retrieved http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03075071003642449

Douglas, T., Salter, S., Iglesias, M., Dowlman, M. & Eri, R. (2016). The feedback process: Perspectives of first and second-year undergraduate students in the disciplines of education, health science and nursing. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 13:1. Retrieved http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1541&context=jutlp

Evans, C. (2013). Making sense of Assessment Feedback in Higher Education. Review of Educational Research, March 2013, 83:1. Retrieved https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654312474350

Getzlaf, B., Perry, B., Toffner, G., Lamarche, K. & Edwards, M. (2009). Effective Instructor Feedback: Perceptions of Online Graduate Students. Journal of Educators Online, 6:2:July 2009. Retrieved http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ904070.pdf

Henderson, M., Boud, D., Molloy, E., Dawson, P., Phillips, M., Ryan, T. & Mahoney, P. (2018). Framework for effective feedback. Feedback for learning.org. Retrieved https://feedbackforlearning.org/

Naylor, R., Baik, C., Watty, K., & Asmar, C. (2014). Good Feedback Practices: Prompts and guidelines for reviewing and enhancing feedback for students. The Centre for the Study of Higher Education, University of Melbourne. Retrieved http://melbourne-cshe.unimelb.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/1761164/Good_Feedback_Practices_2014.pdf

O’Donovan, B., Rust, C., Price, M. (2016). A scholarly approach to solving the feedback dilemma in practice. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education. 41:6.

The Australasian Society for Evidence-Based Teaching. (2017). Feedback: The First Secret John Hattie revealed. Retrieved https://beatrizsolinoelt.files.wordpress.com/2017/02/feedback-john-hattie.pdf

The Higher Education Academy. (2014). HEA Feedback Toolkit: March 2013. The Higher Education Academy. Retrieved https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/knowledge-hub/hea-feedback-toolkit

Wilsman, A. (2013). Teaching Large Classes. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. Retrieved https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/teaching-large-classes/.

Zimmerman, B. J. (1989). Models of self-regulated learning and academic achievement. In B. J. Zimmerman & D. H. Schunk (Eds. ), Self-regulated learning and academic achievement: Theory, research, and practice(pp. 1 -25). New York: Springer.

Page last updated on 30/08/2023

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