Reflecting on Effective Feedback to Students

This year I am participating in the “Leaders in the Making” professional development opportunity offered by the BSW region to interested teachers who have been in the profession between 6 and 10 years. It involves four days over four terms of full-day sessions, discussing educational leadership. In addition, our group of Warrnambool network schools are participating in a research project embedded in the leadership development course, focussing on effective feedback. Our network meetings consist of teachers from primary, secondary, P12 and special schools of various ages, subject areas and expertise. Such a diverse group has made for interesting discussion and has provided an excellent opportunity to share a great variety of examples of effective practise and issues that impact on student learning. To assist me to digest the ideas that have flowed across the table and to share some of my own readings, I have decided to write this post.

Here is what students (Year 7) say about feedback on Wallwisher.

Projects that Warrnambool Network Schools are doing at

Principles of Effective Feedback (from Curriculum Corporation)

  • Is specific and avoids vague comments
  • Is varied in its method of application
  • Uses models showing desired outcomes
  • Shows a valuing of student work
  • Uses marks or grades only some of the time
  • Provides time for students to act on advice
  • Enables students to know how they will benefit

Methods of Feedback to Students

The method of feedback will depend on the age and ability of the student as well as the skill, product or task  being assessed. No one method will suit all contexts, students or tasks and to be most effective, the method used should vary over time.

Written Feedback in Practice

  • Written reports to parents.
  • Notes on work – positive comments, notes for improvement, corrections, questions.
  • Sticky notes attached to student work.
  • Comments to posts on student blogs, wikis or websites.
  • Google Docs – edits in margins, different colours.
  • Word documents can be edited using “track changes”.
  • Ultranet

Verbal feedback in Practice

  • Parent teacher interviews
  • Three-way interviews (student-led conferences)
  • Peer feedback
  • Comments on oral presentations
  • Blackboard Collaborate, Voicethread, Voki, podcasting.
  • “SpeakPipe” can be added to any site, including blogs, and enables the user to leave a voice message.

Pictorial Feedback in Practice

  • Useful for younger students or students with disabilities.
  • “Thumbs up!”, stickers, stamps and smiley faces.
  • Quickly drawn cartoons, similar to “social stories”.
  • Using colours – Rainbow assessment with highlighters (for example, green = great!,  Yellow = slow down and think can this be improved?, Pink = check your grammar or spelling)

Self-Assessment using Rubrics

  • Useful for older students to assist the transition to independent learning.
  • Requires clear criteria and very specific expectations.
  • Can be negotiated by the class prior to the project.


Ramblings of an Australian Teacher- Giving Valuable Feedback to Students” a blog post (September 2010)

Another blog post with ten different methods of “Effective feedback to students” (November 2009)

Chapter from a book by Susan M. Brookhart “How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students”

“Enhancing student feedback through effective formative feedback” The Higher Education Academy


  1. ReflectiveTeacher

    Hello Britt,
    A very interesting, detailed and well considered blog post! It’s strange how feedback just becomes second nature. This post was just a simple reminder of all the little ways we can reinforce positive behaviour and work!

  2. ReflectiveTeacher

    Hello Britt,
    A very detailed and well considered blog post! It’s amazing how much feedback becomes second nature. It was very interesting to see it all broken down 🙂 Just a simple reminder of all the ways we should be reinforcing positive behaviours and work.

  3. Bexta

    This is a valuable resource. It helps to go revisit material that will have an impact on your planning and assessment. Blogs are fabulous for enabling meaningful feedback to reach students at the optimum moment. A fabulous blog Britt.

  4. brittgow

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment Tash – I like your questions to remind teachers that feedback is an important part of student learning. Just like there is no ‘perfect’ lesson, there is no ‘perfect’ kind of feedback and it is very dependent on the individual student, the context and the stage of learning. What kinds of feedback do you use in your classes?

  5. Natasha Hutchins

    Thanks Britt for blog post. I especially connected with your list of Principles of Effective Feedback. I think sometimes it is easy to get stuck in one type of principle and familiar method. Your principles flipped into questions make an excellent, practical and specific self-check list to ensure I stay focussed throughout student learning, especially applying this at the planning stage asking myself, “What effective feedback will enhance student learning?” or “What will effective feedback look like?” Cheers, Tash.

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