The following paragraphs give more information about the qualities of good feedback, based on Juwah et al's work (2004) for the Higher Education Academy in the UK, following their review of the literature.

It develops self-assessment

Good feedback helps learners develop self-assessment skills by encouraging them to recognize strengths and weaknesses in their own performance. Try providing students with a marking checklist to hand in with their work, or asking them to grade themselves. Talk to students whose estimates are out of line with yours to find the cause (under-confidence, misunderstanding of task...).

It encourages dialogue

Good feedback encourages dialogue about learning. Instructors often assume student understanding of feedback without checking. If you can get feedback on the feedback, students may be able to help you help them do better by telling you what they do and don't understand in your feedback.

It clarifies what good performance is

Good feedback clarifies what a good performance is. This is the principle of don't just say it's wrong, say what good performance is in this case and what their work needs to make it better.

It is timely

Good feedback comes in time to allow a second chance at learning. Be sure to return your comments while the work is still fresh in the student's mind, and in time to guide any resubmissions. Peer-to-peer assessment and feedback (formulated as soon as the work is handed in) can also be a good way of achieving this goal.

It guides learning

Good feedback provides information to students about their learning. The idea here is helping students understand underlying principles of learning the skill so that they don't focus only on details but rather learn about the less obvious and difficult to define qualities to work toward.

It encourages self-belief

Good feedback encourages positive motivational beliefs. The characteristic that has the highest correlation with success is the belief that you can be successful. Therefore feedback that points the way to future success (feedforward) is more motivating than the grade itself.

Good feedback should give the instructor feedback, too, in order to help improve teaching. We'll discuss this point later in the course, but the idea is that feedback can alert teachers to patterns of responding on the part of the learners that might suggest better ways to teach or evaluate student learning.

What do good feedback practices look like?

Now that you have seen what the experts say about feedback, let's see if you can recognize these qualities in some real life examples.

The following bullet points give an overview of the feedback principles. Each principle is followed by a description of the feedback situation.

  • Encourages self-belief: Provide positive statements about what the students have accomplished and how you are seeing specific improvement due to their efforts.
  • Encourages dialogue: Write a series of back and forth emails about the feedback with the students and how they are applying the feedback to their work.
  • Clarifies what good performance is: Provide the students with several examples of good performance on the task along with an explanation of how those examples meet the expectations of the assignment.
  • Develops self-assessment: Have the students complete a self-checklist covering the key qualities sought and turn it in along with the paper.
  • Guides learning: Provide feedback that goes deeper than just a detailed list of errors and hits on how the paper and feedback can be generalized to other assignments.
  • Is timely: Return the marked papers in time to allow students to resubmit the work with corrections as long as they can demonstrate how they have responded to the feedback.