ProTip Wednesday: 10 Examples of Effective Feedback

Effective feedback is skill, like a good classroom seating chart, that every teacher masters over time. It is easy to fall into a habit of marking up every wrong thing and forgetting to give feedback that students can actually act upon. Good feedback accomplishes 1) ownership of learning and 2) measurable goal tracking.

We took a lot of cues from How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students by Susan M. Brookhart. Here are 10 examples of effective feedback from there and experts from across the web:

1. Avoid the pen mark explosion

penexplosionAccording to Heather Wolpert-Gawron, you should focus on one skill or only concepts you’ve taught. It could prevent the defeatist mentality and help students focus on how to improve. (via Edutopia)

2. “Comment instead of correct”

commentcorrectCorrecting student papers instead of guiding them towards correcting their own papers takes away the empowerment element of learning and grading. Instead, you can say something like, “I see [x amount of] spelling issues and [x amount of] date issues in your paper.” (via Edutopia)

3. Turn the tables

Making the student the grader of their own work or their peer’s work creates a different expectation and also minimizes disagreements over the grade. This is a good opportunity for teachers to listen to students’ thought processes and their expectations for good performance. It also provides provides self-assessment and immediate feedback. (via TeacherVision)

4. Be action-oriented

Instead of the usual “great job!” or giving students the correct answer, take a look at a good example of actionable, positively-reinforced comments:

“Where in this chapter can you read more about [topic]? When you find that place, what does it say?” (Brookhart, 91)

5. Let’s get personal

More often than not, students value the written feedback more than the grade on the top of the paper. When making this written feedback, don’t just generalize, be specific about what you liked about their work. (via Scholastic)

  • Your first sentence grabbed my attention!
  • You support your argument with very strong evidence.
  • I can actually “see” what you describe.
  • You helped me consider this from another point of view.
  • I am convinced!
  • Your thoughts flow smoothly from one paragraph to the next.
  • Good for you! You used one of our vocabulary words here.

6. A new twist to the compliment sandwich

Hanan Ezeldin says the “Three stars and a wish” is a technique that changes the traditional compliment sandwich. Three stars are three things you liked about their work and a wish is the one area you wish to see improvement in the future. This technique is a strategy that showcases two components: 1) positive reinforcement and 2) a clear thesis and not just generalized feedback (i.e. Nice work!) (via We Are Teachers)

7. Color celebrations


We are all trained to look for red pen marks on what we’ve done wrong. Flip this thinking by introducing new colors — green for positive comments and blue for improvements. At a glance, you can see at a glance if you’re giving balanced comments!(via We Are Teachers)

8. Drop the sticker and no one gets hurts

We all received those stickers: Great work! Nice job! Awesome! Way to go! but what does it mean? What did the student do to deserve the praise? Instead, here’s a great example about how a “good job” feedback can also be focused, descriptive, and supportive.

“This is a great solution. I notice that your list of choices is in order— you did all the vanillas, all the chocolates, and all the strawberries together, and you listed the containers in the same order each time. That way you didn’t miss any.” (Brookhart, 91)

9. Differentiate the feedback

We know that each class has all different kinds of learners. For example, our struggling students need a kind of feedback that is all at once focused, supportive, yet guides them in the right direction, gently. From struggling to English Language Learners to reluctant students, all students digest feedback in different ways. Here are some examples:

“Next time you write a paragraph, try to make the first sentence a summary of all the sentences. That’s called a topic sentence.”

“Your last few assignments had short sentences and only one paragraph. Here you have many long sentences and three paragraphs that follow nicely with each other.” (Brookhart, 102)

10. Using feedback to reteach

Again, the idea is to not focus on what students did wrong, but how they can improve and take ownership of their next steps in learning. By framing a reteaching lesson with what objectives you aimed for mastery helps to aid your observations from a previous quiz or assignment. Teachers can also note class-wide strengths and improvements.

I want you all to be able to… so we need to review… (Brookhart, 57)

Effective feedback focuses on the process of learning, compares either previous student performance or is criterion referenced, is detailed and descriptive, holds a supportive tone with suggested action steps.

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