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Favorite Feedback: Fact and Fiction

Exploring the Disconnect between Students and Educators
Instructors work hard to give their students thoughtful feedback on their work. But how helpful do
students find that feedback? A study of over 2,000 students and educators (September 2014) explores
the disconnect between their views.

FACT OR FICTION?

“Students don’t read the written or typed comments on their work.”
FICTION In fact, the majority of students surveyed find written or typed feedback “very”
or “extremely effective,” while a minority of educators surveyed thought that to be the case.

FACT 39% of educators find typed
comments “very” or “extremely effective,” and
31% find written comments on paper “very”
or “extremely effective.”

FACT 70% of students find written or
typed feedback “very” or “extremely
effective.”

FACT OR FICTION?

“Face-to-face feedback is effective for students.”
FACT The majority of both students and educators surveyed find face-to-face feedback as
“very” or “extremely effective.” The challenge is that only about 30% report receiving that feedback.

FACT 76% of students and educators view
face-to-face as “very” or “extremely effective.”

FACT 29% of students receive face-to-face
comments “very” or “extremely often.”

TAKEAWAY
Provide the benefits of face-to-face feedback by considering new feedback formats like voice and audio
comments. These alternatives save time and overcome scheduling constraints. Talk to your students. Ask them
how they’d most like to see feedback.

Favorite Feedback: Fact and Fiction, September 2014

FACT OR FICTION?

“Students just want to be commended on their work.”
FICTION Students report wanting constructive feedback on their work,
identifying suggestions for improvement as most helpful. What they reported as
least effective is feedback limited to either praise or discouragement.

Types of Feedback by Frequency

Types of Feedback by Effectiveness
Suggestions for Improvement

4.04

General, Overall Comments

Specific Notes in Margins

3.99

Using Criteria or Rubrics

3.73

Using Criteria or Rubrics

3.90

Suggestions for Improvement

3.64

Use of Examples

3.90

Showing Mistakes

3.58

General, Overall Comments

3.88

Specific Notes in Margins

Showing Mistakes

3.88

Showing What I Did Right

Showing What I Did Right

3.88

Praise or Discouragement

Praise or Discouragement
1

3.87

2

1 = “Not Effective at All”

3

Use of Examples

3.62
4

5

5 = “Extremely Effective”

(Average Score)

1

2

1 = “None at All”

3.45
3.39
3.32

3.06
3

4

5

5 = “Extremely Often”

(Average Score)

FACT Students ranked “praise or
discouragement” as the least effective (3.62)
type of feedback. They also report not receiving
this type of feedback very often (3.32).

FACT Students ranked “suggestions for
improvement” as the most helpful type of
feedback (4.04), followed closely by
“specific notes written in the margins.”

TAKEAWAY
Reach out to your students to discover what type of suggestions for improvement might help them most. Establish
a collaborative dialogue where students can identify and receive optimal feedback from their instructors as well as
their peers.

Favorite Feedback: Fact and Fiction, September 2014

FACT OR FICTION?

“Educators and students don’t always agree in their
perceptions of what constitutes effective feedback.”
FACT There was a wide gap in perceived effectiveness in six of the eight categories that were surveyed.

Effective Feedback: The Numbers
TYPES OF FEEDBACK

EDUCATOR

STUDENTS

GAP

General, Overall Comments

33.66%

66.99%

33.33%

Specific Notes in Margins

46.81%

73.40%

26.59%

Showing Mistakes

44.44%

68.96%

24.52%

Showing What I Did Right

47.87%

68.16%

20.29%

Suggestions for Improvement

59.22%

76.04%

16.82%

Using Criteria or Rubrics

52.43%

68.67%

16.24%

Use of Examples

65.59%

69.14%

3.55%

Praise or Discouragement

53.47%

56.92%

3.45%

(% indicate respondents reporting feedback to be “very” or “extremely effective”)

FACT Even though 67% of students say
general, overall comments about the paper
are “very” or “extremely effective,” only 33%
of educators view general, overall comments
about the paper as “very” or “extremely
effective.”

FACT Both educators and students agreed
on the effectiveness of feedback that uses
examples and feedback that uses praise or
discouragement. The greatest difference
occurs with “general, overall comments
about the paper” and “specific notes written
in the margins.”

TAKEAWAY
Drill down to what effective feedback means to your students. On the next page, you’ll find a quick and easy survey
that you can use to gauge feedback effectiveness in your classroom.

Favorite Feedback: Fact and Fiction, September 2014

Feedback Survey

Name

1. What makes feedback effective?
(Rate effectiveness from 1 to 5. 1 = does not effective

5 = makes extremely effective)

Feedback that engages me . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 3 4 5
Encourages me to revise more . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 3 4 5
Gets me to think harder about my task . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 3 4 5
Shows me how to give feedback to myself . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 3 4 5
Tells me the exact changes I need to make . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 3 4 5
Personally praises or criticizes me . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 3 4 5
2. How often do you expect the feedback you receive to lead to the following results?
(Rate importance from 1 to 5. 1 = never expect 5 = always expect)

It will help me save time . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 3 4 5
It helps me receive good grades. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 3 4 5
I will now know how to avoid mistakes in the future . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 3 4 5
I will have a better understanding of what makes for high quality work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 3 4 5
I will better know how to give feedback to myself . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 3 4 5
I will be motivated to learn more about the subject . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 3 4 5
3. How often have the following made it more difficult for you to understand feedback?
(Rate frequency from 1 to 5. 1 = never

5 = always)

Comments that used terms or vocabulary I didn't know. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 3 4 5
Comments that referred to concepts or facts I didn't know . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 3 4 5
Handwriting that was not legible. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 3 4 5
The relevance of comments to my work or assignment goals was unclear. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 3 4 5
Feedback that was too general . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 3 4 5
Too many comments that made it hard to know which were the most important . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 3 4 5
General language barriers (My native language was not the same as my teacher's) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 3 4 5
4. How often have you thought of the following as good sources of feedback?
(Rate frequency from 1 to 5. 1 = not important

5 = very important)

Myself . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 3 4 5
Peers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 3 4 5
Results from a Computer Program (e.g., CAD, Virtual Lab, Word Grammar Checker, Code Compiler) . . 1 2 3 4 5
Grades . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 3 4 5
Instructor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 3 4 5

5. Do you have any further comments on instructor feedback?

Favorite Feedback: Fact and Fiction, September 2014