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Effective feedback

Specific, descriptive feedback is necessary for improvement and success. How teachers provide suggestions for improvement is critical in "closing the gap" for students. Teachers who combine strong subject knowledge with effective feedback can offer students rich, focused information about their learning and how to improve it. Students who are clear about their learning can monitor their progress and seek feedback to improve their learning.


When feedback is effective | Classroom resources | Professional learning | Readings


When feedback is most effective

Feedback is most effective when:

  • initiated by the student, in conjunction with self and/or peer assessment
  • teachers carefully gauge when feedback is needed to promote learning
  • teachers use the kind of feedback prompt that best meets the need of the students, at the level of support they need
  • teachers provide strategies to help the student to improve
  • teachers allow time for, and students can independently act on, feedback to improve their learning
  • feedback takes place as a conversation
  • teachers check the adequacy of the feedback with the students.

Feedback is most effective when it is given at the time of the learning so that students can make improvements as they go. However, written feedback can be beneficial to learning if the following points are taken into consideration:

  • Some students have difficulty understanding and processing written feedback.
  • When students are presented with grades and comments, the grades can cancel the beneficial effects of the comments.
  • Teachers often give too much feedback, which students find overwhelming and difficult to understand.

These "negatives" of written feedback can be avoided if there is good communication between teacher and student, so that the student can say if the feedback is helpful or not in providing paths for improvement.

Classroom resources

These Assessment Online resources may be used to help develop effective feedback skills and processes in students.

Professional learning resource

Download this slide presentation for further professional development. It identifies strategies that improve the quality of feedback to learners through suggested readings and classroom activities.

PowerPoint icon. Effective feedback (PowerPoint 1 MB)

References and readings

Absolum, M. (2006). Clarity in the classroom. Auckland: Hodder Education.

Clarke, S. (2001). Unlocking formative assessment: Practical strategies for enhancing pupils’ learning in the primary classroom. London: Hodder and Stoughton.

Clarke, S. (2003). Enriching Feedback in the primary classroom. London: Hodder and Stoughton.

Hattie, J. (2009). Visible Learning. London and New York: Routledge.

Tunstall, P., & Gipps, C. (1996). Teacher feedback to young children in formative assessment: A typology. British Educational Research Journal, 22 (4).