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Delivering Powerful Feedback

Feedback is directly linked to student achievement.  How can you be sure you’re delivering it effectively?  Read on for our 6 tips on delivering effective and powerful student feedback.

Before the holiday break, we discussed the importance of feedback and revealed some surprising statistics.  Not only did we learn that “the most powerful single modification that enhances achievement is feedback,” (Marzano, Pickering & Pollock, 2001) but we also discovered that students do value and appreciate the feedback they receive.  98% of students feel that it is important to receive feedback from their instructor and  92% of students say that feedback helps them better understand their progress within courses. 

So, how can we make sure the feedback we deliver will enhance student achievement? 

How can we ensure that feedback truly will increase motivation, build on past knowledge, and push students to become more self-sufficient learners?  


To start, feedback should aim to answer the following questions:

  • What goals and objectives are students striving towards?
  • What progress has the student made towards the goal thus far?
  • What can the student do to continue making progress towards the goal?

Answering these questions for every assessment students complete can seem overwhelming, particularly when we take into consideration the ever-growing list of responsibilities that today’s educators face. Given the powerful effect feedback can have, it’s important not to allow it to fall by the wayside. The following suggestions can help teachers provide effective feedback efficiently.


1. Link feedback to a learning target

Feedback needs to be specific and related to the goal or objective students are trying to reach. Research shows that written comments are the most powerful form of feedback. Feedback should aim to fill the gap between a student’s current level and where they need to be next. Even if a student has already met the goal or objective, what could they do to deepen their understanding?


2. Be aware of timing

Overall, immediate feedback is most effective.  However, this is not always doable or realistic, so instructors should strive to provide feedback as soon as possible.  Feedback should be delivered when students are still working towards a specific learning target and when they still have time to put the feedback into action.  Try thinking from a student’s perspective: when would this feedback be most useful to me?  For final exams, this can seem difficult since the student has completed the course and the instructor likely won’t work with this student in the future.  However, it’s still possible to provide feedback that can be used in upcoming classes or coursework.  Try to focus feedback on the process or strategies the student used.  They can apply this type of feedback to future courses, even if the subject area or content is different.


3. Avoid feedback about the person

Providing feedback about the person occurs too often and is the most ineffective type of feedback.  Examples of feedback about the person include statements, such as: “You are a great student.” or “You are so smart!”  These statements fail to answer any of the three feedback questions.  They are also not actionable and don’t provide students with a clear next step.  Feedback about the person can be overwhelming and imply that students need to change who they are as people rather than suggesting positive steps the student could take within their learning.


4. Build a strong classroom culture

Building a classroom culture where feedback is valued is important.  Feedback should be continuous, and doesn’t always need to be delivered to students by the instructor.  Students can receive feedback from one another, students can self-evaluate, and students can provide feedback on the teacher’s performance as well.  Assessments should be seen as an opportunity to evaluate current understandings and areas for improvement, rather than a chance to earn a particular score. Assessments can also help teachers reflect upon their own practices and what they could alter within their teaching in order to reach their students.


5. Provide manageable amounts

Providing students with an unmanageable amount of feedback will have a reverse effect and can be particularly unmotivating.  Linking feedback with learning targets is a good start in keeping the amount manageable.  For example, if the goal of an assignment was to assess students understanding of Romeo and Juliet, is it necessary to spend your time commenting and providing feedback on a student’s spelling and grammatical errors?  Try selecting two to three points of feedback that are most important for students to implement in order to get closer to the main objective.


6. Use DigiExam for your assessments

87% of students would prefer to receive their results and feedback online.  DigiExam can help you efficiently provide personalized feedback to your students.  DigiExam is a comprehensive and intuitive platform that allows teachers to create, administer and grade assessments.  Teachers can then publish results and feedback directly to their students online. Our collaborative platform reduces teacher workload, removes teacher bias and provides a secure and reliable environment that allows students to complete assessments both on and offline.  


Sign up for a free teacher account and give it a try!



  • Marzano, Robert, Pickering, Debra, & Pollock, J.  (2001).  Classroom Instruction that Works: Research- Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement.  Alexandria, VA: Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development.
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