Giving and receiving feedback

Giving and receiving feedback

Giving and receiving feedback is not an easy task and poses significant challenges for both sides. In this article, we will discuss pragmatic feedback models, how to overcome barriers to an effective feedback and tips for giving effective feedback, as well as how to receive feedback and make the most out of it. One of the most important elements in utilising feedback in its full potential is using all types of feedback as ways for improvement.


Typesof feedback might include:

  • Informal feedback, which is the most frequent form.  It is usually in verbal form.
  • Formal feedback comes as part of a structured assessment; most frequently by peers or teachers. It is usually in written form.
  • Formative feedback, “for learning”, is about a learner’s progress at a particular time through a course or during the acquisition of a new skill. It provides opportunities to gain feedback, reflect and redirect effort (where appropriate) before completing a final assessment. It gives you the experience of writing or performing a task without it having a direct impact on your formal progress and relies on continuous encouragement.
  • Summative feedback, “of learning”, measures performance, often against a standard, and comes with a mark/grade and feedback to explain your mark. It can be used to rank or judge individuals (Hardavella et a., 2017).

Teachers need to think of barriers which might detract from the usefulness of feedback, such as:

  • Generalised feedback not related to specific facts
  • Lack of advice on how to improve behaviour
  • Fear of upsetting students
  • Defensive behaviour/resistance when receiving feedback
  • Physical barriers: noise, or improper time, place or space

For effective feedback to be given these are some guiding principles:

  • Give prompt feedback
  • Think about what the learner wants to achieve and give feedback accordingly
  • Be specific on the feedback
  • Encourage self-reflection
  • Help align expectations and priorities
  • Fill gaps in knowledge
  • Let students know where to take corrective action
  • Alleviate fear of the unknown

In terms of the amount, these are some guiding principles:

  • Feedback should correct major issues and misconceptions.
  • Feedback should provide students a guide on where to go next and what to focus on.
  • Teachers must realize that 100% mastery of the subject matter is not realistic for most.
  • It takes time and experience to learn to gauge the appropriate amount of feedback for each student.  It will vary by student and lesson content.
  • It is critical that students are not overwhelmed by feedback that tries to correct everything so prioritization by the instruction is important.
  • Examples – select two or three points in a paper to comment on and be sure to comment on strengths as well as weaknesses.

In terms of content,these are some guiding principles:

  • Feedback content may vary in focus, function, clarity, specificity, and tone.
  • It is important that feedback is descriptive and specific enough to be valuable to the student and provide them direction.
  • At the same time, feedback should not be “overly nitpicky” and correct every single error.
  • Feedback should always be delivered in a nonjudgmental and positive way. Instructors should choose words that convey support and respect.
  • Feedback should be clear and instructors should verify that the student understands the feedback.
  • Best feedback is criterion referenced – that is, it references a specific concept or skill and tells the student where they stand in relation to mastery of that concept or skill.


Hardavella, G. et al. (2017) How to give and receive feedback. Breathe (Sheff), 13(4): 327-333.

You can find the above ideas in:

Dartmouth Edu (2014) Tips for giving and receiving feedback effectively.

University of Waterloo Centre for teaching excellence. Receiving and getting effective feedback (2018)

Centre for Innovation in research and teaching. Effective feedback in the classroom. (2018)

The University of Sheffield (2018) toolkit for learning and teaching: feedback and assessment.

For a comprehensive review on written marking:

Elliot, V. et al. (2016) A marked improvement? A review on the evidence of written marking.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s