How to Give Formative Feedback

Make It Count: Providing Feedback as Formative Assessment

It can feel like a hardship at times to provide students with comments on written work they have completed. Your desk is covered in dozens, or even hundreds, of papers, making it practically impossible to comment on each one individually.

Despite this, we recognise the significance of feedback as a result of both our own experiences and the findings of study. Professor of Education at the University of Melbourne in Australia and Director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute John Hattie is of the opinion that feedback ought to be immediate, relevant, and action-oriented. The encouraging finding that “students desire feedback just for them, just in time, and just helping nudge forward,” as stated by Hattie, is the good news. In light of this, he recommends us to “worry more about how students are receiving your comments… rather than increasing how much feedback you give.”

How therefore can we make sure that students receive timely feedback of this nature, namely the kind that they actually pay attention to, comprehend, and put into practise? Let’s first investigate how other professionals in the field characterise feedback as an important instrument in the formative assessment process before we look at particular technologies that can help us with the process.

Feedback as Formative Assessment

Anyone who has been involved in the administration of standardised tests is aware of two things: the results are delivered in a manner that is wholly impersonal and take an excessive amount of time to arrive, both of which render this type of feedback practically irrelevant. In a nutshell, feedback needs to be given in a timely manner and with a personal touch. Instead of depending solely on summative exams, teachers are starting to shift their attention back to providing timely, pertinent, and actionable feedback to students either during the sessions themselves or very shortly after they have completed them.

As an illustration, Margaret Heritage of the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing at UCLA characterises it as follows (PDF, 396KB):

[F]eedback that the instructor gives to students is also a crucial resource so that students can take active efforts to increase their own learning. [T]he teacher should provide feedback to students on a regular basis. In point of fact, the teaching that is given to pupils can be understood to be their feedback.
In addition, the NCTE’s Assessment Task Force argues in their report titled “Formative Assessment That Truly Informs Instruction” that a good formative assessment “includes feedback that is non-evaluative, specific, timely, and related to the learning goals, and that provides opportunities for the student to revise and improve work products and deepen understandings.” This is just one of the key factors that makes up a good formative assessment. Another important factor is that a good formative assessment “in

The RISE feedback model is the last concept that I have become familiar with in the recent months, and it is my sincere hope that it may be able to assist you in shifting your thinking regarding how and why feedback is given. The RISE concept was first presented to us by Emily Wray, and it motivates us to give feedback to students that is not merely instructive, but also moves them toward progress.

Feedback in Action

Therefore, viewing feedback as an opportunity to teach can assist us in shifting our viewpoint from one of only correcting students’ work to one of collaborating with them, and from one of merely advancing students’ learning to one of merely mending students’ mistakes. In this location, we have access to a wide variety of technology that will be of use to us in the process of providing feedback.

Putting Feedback Into Practice
The number of tools that can be used to provide feedback is continuously growing. I’ve heard that back in the day, college professors would record their lectures onto audiotape and then trade tapes with their students as a part of the return process for graded papers. Since then, we’ve made some progress toward our goals.

To begin, there are a variety of technological solutions that make it possible to provide feedback that is timely, relevant, and action-oriented. The majority of them, including Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and Wikispaces, provide us the ability to write comments straight into the margins of the student’s writing. And even though voice-to-text tools like Dictanote (Chrome Extension) and Dragon Dictation (App) can assist speed up this process a little bit, some of your coworkers could be seeking for alternate methods.

Audio comments may be inserted into a document using Microsoft Word, which is convenient for those of us who want to provide input in this format. And of course, the internet has provided us with new tools to provide voice comments, such as Kaizena, which enables us to embed audio comments in a Google Doc, and Voxer, which is described as a tool that combines a walkie-talkie with voice mail so that “you can hear messages as people speak, or listen later if you are unavailable.” Both of these tools, among others, are available to us on the internet.

Additionally, there are visual tools for the purpose of providing feedback. Both Skitch, which is made by Evernote, and Snagit, which is made by TechSmith, enable users to easily capture screenshots and annotate them. This capability might be useful not only for instructors who are offering feedback to students but also for students themselves, as they are able to take pictures of their work and reflect on it. For instance, it is not possible to embed comments when utilising a visual tool such as Glogster in the same way that we could when utilising a Google Doc. As a result, we are able to give students targeted feedback on visual texts that do not naturally support annotation. This is demonstrated in the screencapture that I created with Skitch and may be given to students. To take things to the next level, we can provide interactive feedback in the form of screencasts by making use of applications such as Jing or Explain Everything.


“You are only as good a writer as you are a responder,” is something that I have frequently told my students. That is to say, you can improve your writing skills by offering comments to the writing of others. In light of this, my expectation is that you will be willing to share your feedback with students in an open and generous manner while simultaneously demonstrating to them the kinds of feedback that you would like them to offer to one another.

By doing so, we can create a culture of feedback that, ultimately, feeds the interests of our students and “nudges” passions forward, making the piles of papers on our desks feel a bit more manageable as we engage students through authentic response. In addition, doing so enables us to create a culture of feedback that, ultimately, feeds our students’ interests and “nudges” passions forward.