There are many ways of categorizing feedback. This page will review two categories, examples of each, and some best practices.

First, feedback can be informal or formal. When an instructor facilitates a discussion, answers impromptu questions, and answers questions during office hours, they are providing informal feedback. This feedback may not be planned, can be tailored to a situation as it arises, and may not be consistently provided from class to class, or from student to student. Formal feedback, on the other hand, is made available to all learners in as consistent a manner as possible. Many times formal feedback is shared in the form of annotations on student writing, exam questions, or through an assignment rubric.

Feedback can also be formative or summative. Feedback is considered formative if learners are subsequently allowed additional opportunities to practice or resubmit their work. Summative format is provided at the end of the learning process and serves to provide students with an overall assessment of their learning. Summative feedback is generally provided at the end of a unit, topic, or course.

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This table provides a few examples of feedback and identifies them as formal or informal, and summative or formative. These are just a few of the myriad of options for providing feedback to learners. 






Verbal feedback on impromptu questions during class discussion or lecture



Reviewing homework problem sets during office hours or online review meetings



Working out practice problems for students to watch, or having students work problems on the board



Encouragement to students at end of semester/large assessment focused on applying their skill to future courses or career stuff



Comments or instructor markup of student essay submissions and other assignment drafts



Showing score, which questions are correct/incorrect, showing correct answers, providing justification for why each answer is correct on quizzes/exams



Peer review by students of their submissions




Filling out a rubric that shows detailed criteria and expectations



Posting solutions to practice problems or question sets




Sharing exemplar submissions along with the related grading rubric




Student reflection/self-assessment activities



Telling students what they are really good at/skilled at, at end of course



Best Practices

Students appreciate feedback that is objective, actionable, and timely.

  • Using a grading rubric can help to ensure objectivity in grading. Hiding student names or other identifying information can also aid in grading objectively. Many learning management systems (LMSs) allow anonymous grading for this purpose.
  • Phrase feedback to be constructive and actionable, even if the feedback is summative. Students may still take action to improve their skill after completing a course or graduating.
  • When possible, consider grading workload when designing course assessments and aim to provide feedback within one week for all assessments (including writing assignments, quizzes, and exams)

When appropriate, take time saving measures.

  • Short announcements during class meeting times (or via announcements in the LMS) are an effective way of sharing feedback to the entire class. This is a good way to address things if most students are struggling with similar issues.
  • Many LMSs allow graders to save and reuse comments while grading. This can save redundant typing and phrasing of similar issues.
  • If an issue recurs among many students, consider adapting the grading rubric, assignment instructions, or course materials to close this performance gap. It may be caused by an underlying misunderstanding of the material.
  • If grades on a formative assessment are lower than expected, let students know about any resources where they can find tutoring or other assistance.

References and Additional Resources

Further Exploration

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