We thank you for the feedback that you’ve provided to the Cengage Learning Blog, and we hope you’re benefiting from the ideas submitted by your colleagues. Feedback can provide helpful insights that allow us to sharpen our skills and see matters from a fresh perspective. It also helps us know where we’re on the right track, and where we may need to correct course.

As an instructor, you’re likely familiar with providing feedback on the work that students have created. In order to enable that feedback to accomplish its intended goal, it needs to be provided in a manner that invites self reflection and creates meaning for the student. Marilla Svinicki and Wilbert McKeachie, authors of McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers, outline several factors that help ensure your comments on students’ assignments are helpful, meaningful, and actionable:

Written feedback should be:

  • Understandable: Expressed in a language that students will understand.
  • Selective: Commenting on two or three things that the student can do something about.
  • Specific: Pointing to examples in the student’s submission where the feedback applies.
  • Timely: Provided in time to inform the next piece of work.
  • Contextualized: Framed with reference to the learning outcomes and/or assessment criteria.
  • Nonjudgmental: Descriptive rather than evaluative, focused on learning goals not just performance goals.
  • Balanced: Pointing out the positive as well as areas in need of improvement.
  • Forward-Looking: Suggesting how students might improve subsequent assignments.
  • Transferable: Focused on processes, skills, and self-regulatory abilities. (McKeachie and Svinicki, p 111)

Reference: McKeachie, Wilbert J. and Svinicki, Marilla. 2014. McKeachie’s Teaching Tips, Fourteenth Edition. Belmont: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

What principles govern the way you provide your students with feedback? Do you follow a specific procedure or format for sharing that feedback with them? Share your strategies in the comments section.


For suggestions regarding how you can use student feedback to hone your course content or teaching style, read our previous post: “Using End-of-Term Student Feedback for Classroom Growth.”