3 ways to make assessment feedback more useful for your students


A lot of effort can often be given by teachers in providing students with a significant amount of feedback following the completion of a task. In a number of cases, this feedback is not particularly useful to the student, particularly if they are moving onto a new unit or topic once the task is ‘done’.

So, how can teachers ensure that the feedback they give is worth the effort of spending all that time marking each student’s work?

We teachers must make sure that the student can either immediately apply the feedback that they are given or we must tell the student when they will be able to apply it, so they can improve.

Too often we can fall into the trap of giving a student extensive feedback that they cannot use to improve. Unless the student has the opportunity to redo the task, or something very similar, then much of what we write or say can be irrelevant to them. This is of particular concern when we mark and give feedback on summative assessments, as we quickly move on to something else like a new topic or new project.

Here are three simple strategies for teachers to be more effective in this regard:

  1. For similar assessment task types e.g. presentations, essays, oral commentaries / discussions, assist students in setting up a folder where they keep the feedback for each type of task. When the student is asked to do another presentation, the teacher should ask the students to pull out the feedback from their last presentation assessment, so that they can refer to it and be mindful of what they need to improve.
  2. Give specific feedback on the skills associated with completed assessment task that can be worked on in most class situations. For example, if a student appears to lack examples to support statements in an essay, the feedback and advice may ask the student to support claims they make in class discussions or in question and answer sessions. This is a skill that is not exclusive to good essay writing.
  3. Give students the opportunity to complete a specific aspect of the assessment task again, so they can instantly apply the feedback, so that you are sure they understand it. This is a great homework task. We do not need to give students the whole task back, just on part. For example, you may want a student to display the information in their slides better in a presentation. So, give the student one or two slides to improve, as opposed to the whole presentation. You may want the student to re-write a specific section of a lab report for science or show more working in a certain math question.

Remember, just because we may spend a lot of time giving students feedback, it does not mean it is going to be effective. We must, therefore, hone our feedback on ensuring that it makes a difference to student learning.

Published by Richard Bruford

Richard is currently Secondary School Principal of Suzhou Singapore International School, one of China's leading international schools. He leads workshops across the Asia-Pacific region for the International Baccalaureate in the areas of pedagogical leadership and approaches to teaching and learning. Richard consults with schools on the topics of school improvement and effective implementation and use of technology. With a background in public and independent school education in the UK and Australia, Richard is enjoying his international school adventure in China. He is passionate about developing and supporting educational leaders, as it is essential to improving all schools. Richard is a proud family man and feels lucky to be married to Kim and father of their son Austin. In his spare time Richard enjoys to swim, bike and run and is a now retired football player and coach (with occasional guest appearances)

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks for this Richard.
    Feedback timeliness is so critical. Along with accessibility and timing of feedback, teachers help enable a shift in student thinking so that students can value the feedback such that they want to use it to improve their learning. I think the technology we now use in classrooms allows for the right kind of feedback. The culture shift towards valuing this type of feedback will remain a work in practice.

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