Feedback on assessment can be provided formally, such as comments and a grade on Turnitin and/or a signed feedback form or informal such as verbal advice from a tutor in a tutorial. Effective feedback is essential as it allows students to understand how their mark was allocated, the strengths and weaknesses of the work presented and more importantly strategies for improving their future outcomes i.e. “feed-forward” 

Key Principles

  • Constructive and specific - Use honest but also supportive and respectful language in both written/pre-recorded feedback, as well as in tutorials. Focus on the work rather than the student. Remember to point out key strengths as well as areas for development. Following written or recorded audio feedback, ask students to reflect on their outcomes and think of strategies for improving on future grades.
  • Consistent - Ensure the terminology used is consistent with the mark/grade awarded and the marking scheme provided. Check the adjectives used match the University’s General Assessment Guidelines.
  • Interactive - As well as written or recorded audio feedback, ensure all students have the opportunity discuss their work verbally in pre-scheduled tutorials. Feedback should be available for all assessments - including examinations and dissertations.
  • Timely - Assessment activities not being scheduled to consolidate students’ learning, or feedback not sufficient or timely to support learning, would likely be of concern (OfS 2022).

    The University’s expectation is that formal feedback on summative assessments is normally provided no later than 15 working after the submission deadline date (following internal moderation). There are no restrictions on providing earlier feedback except if students who have yet to submit would gain an unfair advantage from feedback to others. Staggered submission deadlines should be planned and published in the Programme Handbook at the start of the academic year and feedback tutorial opportunities should be published in Module Guides.

  • Inclusive - Use terminology which is accessible and jargon-free recognising that different student cohorts differ. Key messages can be missed if feedback is too broad or technical and/or detailed. Ensure feedback is shared in an accessible format.

Good Practice

Based on overall cohort outcomes, develop an “Areas for development list” and ask students to work in groups to discuss strategies to improve these areas. This is particularly helpful where due to unforeseen circumstances there is a delay in individual feedback.

Often students focus solely on a grade and ignore the feedback comments. To encourage a more holistic and proactive approach to feedback give students the opportunity at the end of an academic period or at the start of another to look at feedback from different modules over the period and create a list of key strengths and areas for assessment development. This exercise can take place in personal academic tutorials or as an inter-semester/year directed learning activity.

When giving feedback on assessment scripts in Turnitin, time can be saved by setting up pre-determined comments i.e. Quick Marks on key areas of strength and development. When giving advice for further development in the qualitative comments section on the University standard assessment feedback sheet or comments section in Turnitin, keep a list of stock phrases which can be copied and tailored to the student in question.

The Language of Feedback

Feedback should be supportive, respecful, developmental, concise and clear. Remember the purpose is to feed-forward and encourage the student to develop their work in the future. Click the sections below to discover phrases to avoid when providing feedback and suggested alternative supportive phrases.

You are careless and you need to try harder
There are a number of issues with the arguments presented. Specifically …..

Going forward ensure adequate time is allocated for research, writing up and checking through work.
Weak analysis
Develop analysis – Compare/contrast how different authors define the different theories, and compare how the different theories relate to each other. Compare theory to practice.
Your work really makes little sense to me
Watch structure and clarity of arguments – Plan and check your work. Ensure sections are linked and your commentary flows.
Poor referencing
In text referencing – Please use author surname and year – See online guidance: https://www.bolton.ac.uk/leaponline/My-Academic-Development/My-Writing-Techniques/Referencing/Level-2/Harvard-Referencing.aspx
Shoddy introduction
Introduction – Set the scene and explain what will be covered. References need to be provided in the introduction also (as well as the conclusion)


Further Reading

Advance HE (2023). Assessment and Feedback in Higher Education [online]. Available from: https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/teaching-and-learning/assessment-and-feedback-higher-education

Boud, D. and Molloy, E. (2013) Rethinking models of feedback for learning: The challenge of Design. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 38 (6) pp. 698–712

Dawson, P., Henderson, M., Mahoney, P., Phillips, M., Ryan, T., Boud, D., & Molloy, E. (2019). What makes for effective feedback: Staff and student perspectives. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 44(1), pp. 25-36

Nicol, D. and MacFarlane-Dick, D. (2006) Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: a model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in Higher Education Practice. 31 (2), pp. 199-218

O’Donovan, B, den Outer, B, Price, M & Lloyd, L (2021) What makes good feedback good? Studies in Higher Education, 46(2), pp. 318-329

Samble, K., Brown, S. and Race, P. (n.d.) Assessment and Feedback: Heriot Watt University Learning and Teaching Academy. [Online]. Available from: https://lta.hw.ac.uk/resources/assessment-and-feedback/

Winstone, N.  and Carless, D. (2019) Designing Effective Feedback Processes in Higher Education. London: Routledge