ETP - Providing Useful Feedback



“Decades of education research support the idea that by teaching less and providing more feedback, we can produce greater learning” (Wiggins, 2012).

Learning Objectives

In order to provide useful feedback, we’ll discuss practices you can use to:

  • Aligned to course/class session objectives
  • Timely
  • Actionable—focused and specific
  • Consequential
  • User-friendly—focused on the learning
  • Provide personalized feedback in group discussions
  • Give students the opportunity to practice revising
  • Conduct structured peer review sessions
  • Distribute handouts addressing common errors
  • Provide detailed feedback on the first online assignment
  • Use video recording or audio recording
  • Use blogs, chats, or forums
  • Use online quizzes with automated feedback

Skeletal Outline

Download a skeletal outline to take notes on the key practices included in this module.

Course Demonstration

This video shows instructors effectively demonstrating the evidence-based practices presented in this module. Through this authentic classroom observation, you can begin to consider how you might implement these practices and techniques with your students.

The instructors featured in the video include Desmond Stephens, PhD, from Florida A&M University; Amit Savkar, PhD, from the University of Connecticut; and Sophie Adamson, PhD, from Elon University.

Download the transcript for this video.

Expert Insights

In this video, you’ll hear Tom Angelo, a scholar in teaching and learning, discuss the specific nuances of and the research support for the teaching techniques and practices presented in this module.

Download the transcript for this video.

Common Challenges & Misconceptions

In this section, you’ll read about some common challenges and misconceptions associated with ensuring equitable access to learning for all students. Click on each statement to read research-based clarifications and suggestions aligned to each challenge or misconception.

MISCONCEPTIONGiving grades is equivalent to providing feedback.


Grades rank students, assess how well an assignment was completed, and/or assess how well an outcome was met. Conversely, feedback “is designed to help students, not label them” (Friend, 2013). Grades can reveal a level of performance based on a scale, but they are often poor tools for indicating how performance can be improved. As Friend (2013) explains, “There is virtually no way for a letter to convey any real meaning related to assessment unless some other text accompanies it, in the form of elaboration, explanation, or correlation. In that case, the grade is not the critical element; it is instead the comment to which the grade points.”


If you view feedback as a teaching tool rather than as the final “verdict” (Friend, 2013), you will begin to distinguish between feedback and grading. You may decide to assign a grade on a paper marked with comments. But once you have assigned a grade, you diminish the learning opportunity for most students (Barnes, 2012; Friend, 2013).

MISCONCEPTION: All feedback should be immediate.


When students are acquiring new complex knowledge or skills, real-time checks for understanding and feedback can prevent them from developing misconceptions or incorrect practices. However, when they are extending and applying knowledge (e.g., writing an essay or solving a complex theorem), it can be valuable to give them time to find their own errors and make their own adjustments before providing your feedback. This allows them to develop perseverance and take responsibility for their own learning (Goodwin & Miller, 2012).

MISCONCEPTION: More feedback is always better.


Columbia University’s Teaching Center advises, “Limit feedback to the amount of information that the student can absorb. Identify the key areas that need additional work.” This makes the feedback actionable. If students need a great deal of feedback, then they may actually be in need of more instruction. Attending your office hours or a tutoring session can enable students to receive better feedback that may resonate with them more than a sea of red ink.

MISCONCEPTION: All students prefer to have their feedback written out so they can refer back to it.


Crook et al. (2012) found, “In excess of 90% of students rated video feedback as more valuable than written feedback, with 74% completely understanding the feedback provided by the marker, showing that technology may ‘provide the innovative edge that can help students engage more effectively with their feedback’” (as cited in Turner & West, 2013, p. 288).


Use Screencast-o-matic, Evernote, or iPhone’s Opinion. Detailed directions are provided for each of these technologies on YouTube. Start with providing feedback for an assignment using one of the technology options. Then survey your students to learn their reactions and to find ways to improve.

MISCONCEPTION: There is little value in providing feedback to students who receive high grades on their papers.


If you view grading and giving feedback on papers as correcting, then you may be missing an opportunity to teach. Feedback is an integral part of student learning, and researchers argue that “taking the time to provide learners with information on what exactly they did well, and what may still need improvement” is beneficial to all students (Stenger, 2014). Especially useful to students who have demonstrated improvement from one paper to the next is noting what the learner did differently than in previous assignments (Stenger, 2014). Students who put significant effort into assignments and are successful need feedback just as much as students who struggle or do not put in the required effort.


Let students know you recognize what they have learned. As Nilson (2010) writes, “Give praise where deserved, because students often do not know what they are doing right” (p. 278). Explain to students why the work was effective and encourage them to apply the same strategies to future assignments.  


In the Observe & Analyze (OA) section, you’ll view the video(s) depicting developing practice, where an instructor implements some of the module techniques effectively while other techniques may need slight adjustments or improvements. As you analyze the video(s), you will gain a deeper understanding of the module techniques and gain insight into some common pitfalls.


Download the transcript for this video.

Download the transcript for this video.


  • Instructional Practices

  • Online Instructional Practices

  • Additional Resources

This section includes resources and handouts to support your implementation of the techniques and practices presented in the module.

Download all the implementation resources for this module.

Implementation Resources

Download or print the following resources to practice our techniques for providing useful feedback:

The module learning objectives and aligned online practices are listed below. Each resource offers step-by-step instructions and examples of effective online teaching in text and/or video.

*Featured Technology Tool: Use Loom to provide detailed feedback on first online assignment

Ensure your online feedback is effective

Set and meet expectations for timely feedback

Students are motivated by timely feedback and may become demotivated if they don’t receive feedback when expected (Boettcher & Conrad, 2016). Therefore, it is important for online instructors to set reasonable expectations regarding when they will provide feedback, and then consistently meet those expectations. When planning assignments, take into consideration when you will be able to evaluate the work and provide feedback, and then schedule the due dates accordingly.

Download guidelines on providing timely feedback.

Provide specific feedback to demonstrate close attention

When posting announcements or replying to a discussion board forum, refer to specific aspects of the group discussion and highlight particular comments from individual students to extend the discussion. The specificity of your comments helps students know that you are paying close attention to their work and ideas. 

Download an example of specific group feedback.

Provide personalized feedback in group discussions

When replying to individual students on discussion forums, use information about their personal and career interests to personalize feedback. For example,

  • Jonathan, I recall you have an interest in the global logistics industry. How do you think that industry might be impacted by the issues that were identified in this week’s discussion about climate change patterns?
  • Lindsay, since you have traveled in South America, I’m wondering if you could expand upon your comment about how language and culture influence our perceptions and behaviors.

Download an additional resource for gathering information about students to help you personalize feedback.

Help students use feedback to improve

Provide detailed feedback on the first assignment

Students use the feedback they receive on their first assignment as a benchmark for your expectations. Therefore, in addition to making a rubric available to help students better understand your expectations, make an effort to offer detailed feedback and, if appropriate, opportunities to use that feedback to improve their work. This initial feedback can impact the time and effort students will invest in future assignments (Boettcher & Conrad, 2016). 

Although students typically want feedback on their assignments, many students may not have the experience of carefully reading and applying feedback (LeVan & King, 2016). By providing structured activities and assignments, you can help students understand and use your feedback to improve this and future assignments.

Download a resource for ensuring students understand and utilize instructor feedback.

Download a resource for providing detailed feedback on the first assignment.

Featured Technology Tool: Watch Andrea Hogan’s video demonstration showing how to use Loom to provide detailed feedback on an online assignment.

Watch a video tutorial to learn how to set up and use Loom.

Download written instructions on how to use Loom.

Employ technologies to increase efficiency

Use online quizzes with automated feedback

Online quizzes are a great way for students to obtain instant feedback and for instructors to ensure their students understand factual knowledge and can apply basic concepts. Most learning management systems (LMSs) have quiz functionality that allows instructors to embed automated feedback into quizzes that explains the correct and incorrect responses and directs students to helpful resources. Although creating these quizzes with automated feedback can be time-consuming, it is worth the investment of time because the quiz becomes a high-quality learning opportunity and can be used again in future classes.

Download a resource for using online quizzes with automated feedback. 


Judith V. Boettcher, PhD
Online Learning Consultant and Author
Designing for Learning

Andrea Hogan
Associate Professor
Grand Canyon University

Jayne Pyle
Coordinator of Professional Development Institute
University of Arkansas – Pulaski Technical College

Jonathan Purkiss-Jones
Instructor of English
University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College

Below are additional resources to further explore the module topics.

Video Resources

Resources for Further Reading

Consult a comprehensive list of references for this module.


Amit Savkar, PhD
UConn Teaching Fellow
Associate Professor in Residence
Assistant Director of Faculty Development CETL
University of Connecticut

Chris Phare
Graduate Research Fellow, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Desmond Stephens, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Mathematics
Florida A&M University

Sophie Adamson, PhD
Associate Professor of French
Chair of the Dept. of World Languages and Cultures
Elon University

Thomas A. Angelo, EdD
Clinical Professor of Educational Innovation & Research, &
Director, Educator Development for The Academy
UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993)
Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Angelo, T. (2011)
Efficient feedback for effective learning: How less can sometimes be more. Retrieved from

Barnes, M. (2012, December 18)
De-grade your classroom and instead use narrative feedback [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R.-M. (2016)
The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.

Burnham, C. C. (1986)
Portfolio evaluation: Room to breathe and grow. In C. W. Bridges (Ed.), Training the new teacher of college composition (pp. 125–138). Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

Chase, B., Germundsen, R., Cady Brownstein, J., & Schaak Distad, L. (2001)
Making the connection between increased student learning and reflective practice. Educational Horizons, 79, 143–147.

Columbia University Graduate School of Arts & Sciences Teaching Center. (n.d.)
How to provide constructive feedback—That won’t exasperate your students. Retrieved from

Dean, C. B., Hubbell, E. R., Pitler, H., & Stone, B. J. (2012)
Classroom instruction that works: Research-Based strategies for increasing student achievement (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Deslauriers, L., Schelew, E., & Wieman, C. (2011)
Improved learning in a large-enrollment physics class. Science, 332, 862–864.

Dougherty, J. (2013, October 1)
How to organize peer review on Google Docs. Retrieved from 

Friend, C. (2013, January 1)
Grading, assessment, or feedback? [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Goodwin, B., & Miller, K. (2012)
Research says / Good feedback is targeted, specific, timely. Educational Leadership, 70(1), 82–83.

The Higher Education Academy. (2012, July)
10 ideas for enhancing feedback with technology. Retrieved from

Kim, K.-S., & Moore, J. (2005)
Web–based learning: Factors affecting students’ satisfaction and learning experience. First Monday, 10(11).

LeVan, K. S., & King, M. E. (2016, November 14)
Teaching students how to manage feedback. Faculty Focus. Retrieved from

Myatt. M. (2013, October 13)
Should I be marking every piece of work? [Blog post]. Retrieved from (link no longer active)

McKeachie, W. J., & Svinicki, M. (2006)
McKeachie’s teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers (12th ed.). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Nilson, L. B. (2010)
Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Stenger, M. (2014, August 6)
5 research-based tips for providing students with meaningful feedback. Retrieved from

Sweetland Center for Writing, University of Michigan. (n.d.)
Using peer review to improve student writing. Retrieved from

Trimingham, R., & Simmons, P. (2009).
Using audio technology for student feedback. Retrieved from

Turner, W., & West, J. (2013)
Assessment for “Digital First Language” speakers: Online video assessment and feedback in higher education. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 23, 288–296.

Twigg, C. A. (2015, November–December)
Improving learning and reducing costs: Fifteen years of course description. Change. Retrieved from

Wessling, S. B. (n.d.)
Podcasting to personalize feedback. Retrieved from

Wiggins, G. (2012)
Seven keys to effective feedback. Educational Leadership, 70(1), 10–16.