Decades of academic research confirms what we educators know to be true: The more feedback students receive about their work, the more they learn. In fact, Bellon, Bellon and Blank (1991) state that “academic feedback is more strongly consistently related to achievement than any other teaching behavior” (p. 2).

So if feedback is core to student learning, what then is the most effective kind of feedback? How can feedback be most valuable for students? University of Auckland professors Helen Timperly and John Hattie (2007) describe how student feedback should be insightful, giving students actionable information about what they’re doing right or wrong and next steps towards improvement. A comment like “Great job!” or “This paragraph needs work” lacks enough specificity to help students do better the next time.

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In addition to being insightful, research also shows student feedback should be timely, consistent, and linked to particular goals or outcomes if it’s to be effective. A 2011 study found that participants who received immediate feedback experienced “significantly larger” performance gains than those who were given delayed feedback. Providing feedback to accommodate student learning curves and subsequent assessment is critical to learning–and feedback provided a month after the fact has less efficacy.

But as we educators all know—ideal scenarios are difficult to achieve in real life.

About the Author:

Christine Lee is Distinguished Visiting Writer at Saint Mary’s College of California MFA in Writing program. She is a faculty member on special assignment with Turnitin assisting faculty in understanding, teaching about, and encouraging student academic integrity.

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