Effective Feedback in the Classroom

Effective Feedback in the Classroom

Giving students feedback in the classroom during the learning process has been proven to increase learning and improve student outcomes.  When given correctly, feedback guides the student in their learning process and gives them the direction they need to reach the target or goal of the lesson.  Feedback sends a message to the student that the instructor cares about the learning taking place.  It also allows the student to become more engaged and involved in the classroom.

Instructors typically collect information about student progress through various formative assessment strategies (see the CIRT module on formative assessment for more information).  Formative assessment is done in the classroom during the learning process and it allows instructor to collect data regarding where the students are relative to the goal of the lesson.  Instructors can then use this information to provide feedback to each student in a way that is specific to that student.  Thus the feedback is individualized, relevant, and appropriate for where the student currently is in their learning.

There are several variables that must be considered by instructors when preparing to give students feedback.  These are strategic choices that impact the effectiveness of the feedback.  Some of the most important variables include the following:


  • Students need to receive the feedback so there is still time for them to use it towards the target goal.
  • Most effective if the student is still engaged in the subject matter because it will be more meaningful and relevant
  • Examples- returning tests, quizzes and homework promptly


  • Feedback should correct major issues and misconceptions.
  • Feedback should provide students a guide on where to go next and what to focus on.
  • Instructors must realize that 100% mastery of the subject matter is not realistic for most.
  • Takes time and experience to learn to gauge the appropriate amount of feedback for each student.  It will vary by student and lesson content.
  • It is critical that students are not overwhelmed by feedback that tries to correct everything so prioritization by the instruction is important.
  • Examples - select two or three points in a paper to comment on and be sure to comment on strengths as well as weaknesses.


  • Feedback can be delivered in several modes.  It can be oral, written, visual, or done through demonstration.
  • Use written when the student needs to be able to refer to the feedback later.
  • Use oral when there is too much too much information for the student to read or if the student does not read well.
  • Interactive feedback in person is best because it allows the student to ask questions.
  • Use visuals or demonstrations for visual learners and how-to types of material.


  • Feedback can be given to individual students, groups of students, or the entire class.
  • Give feedback to individuals when needed to address their own performance or learning.  Individual feedback makes students feel valued and is motivating.
  • Feedback to groups or the whole class is appropriate when most of the class is missing a concept or needs reinforcement.


  • Feedback content may vary in focus, function, clarity, specificity, and tone.
  • It is important that feedback is descriptive and specific enough to be valuable to the student and provide them direction.
  • At the same time, feedback should not be "overly nitpicky" and correct every single error.
  • Feedback should always be delivered in a nonjudgmental and positive way. Instructors should choose words that convey support and respect.
  • Feedback should be clear and instructors should verify that the student understands the feedback.
  • Best feedback is criterion referenced - that is, it references a specific concept or skill and tells the student where they stand in relation to mastery of that concept or skill.  It does compare them other students.  Rubrics are often an effective way to let students know where they stand in regards to mastery of content.


The following series of three School Tube videos discusses feedback in the classroom in depth.  Each video covers a different aspect of feedback ranging how to effectively give feedback, what the research says about feedback, what student outcomes may be expected, and so forth.  The videos feature instructors and students of all ages, as the principles of using feedback in the classroom apply across all ages and all grade levels.  Each video opens with a title slide that will list the topics covered in that specific video.

Part I:   Giving Effective Feedback to Your Students - The Impact on Student Achievement

Part II:  Giving Effective Feedback to Your Students - 7 Key Factors to Ensure Effective Feedback

Part III:   Giving Effective Feedback to Your Students -  Tailoring Feedback to Meet Content and Student Needs

Suggested Readings

  • Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (1998). Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom assessment. Granada Learning.
  • Brookhart, S. M. (2008). How to give effective feedback to your students. ASCD.
  • Cross, K. P. (1988). Feedback in the Classroom: Making Assessment Matter. AAHE Assessment Forum, American Association for Higher Education, One Dupont Circle, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20036..
  • Oliver, R. (2000). Age differences in negotiation and feedback in classroom and pairwork. Language Learning, 50(1), 119-151.
  • Walvoord, B. E., Bardy, B., & Denton, J. (2007). Closing the feedback loop in classroom-based assessment. Assessing student achievement in general education, 64-70.


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Resource Links

How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students - The following link is a comprehensive resource that contains links to specific topics related to feedback including why feedback is important, what are the types of feedback, how to give effective feedback and so forth.

20 Ways to Provide Effective Feedback for Learning - This list provides short, but concise points to consider when wanting to provide feedback to students.

Classroom Best Practices:  Providing Feedback to Students in the Classroom - This reference discusses the 3 most important guidelines for giving feedback and also touches on how to involve students in the feedback process.

Using Classroom Data to Give Systematic Feedback to Students to Improve Learning - Following is a link to a reference from the America Psychological Association that discusses how to use the data gathered in formative assessments to provide student feedback, including information on to effectively give the feedback and what outcomes might be expected.

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