5 Considerations when Providing Feedback to Promote Learning

Instructional design principles promote the value of providing feedback to learners. Effective feedback can help students as they gain new knowledge and assist instructors in providing guidance for students in successfully completing course goals. If delivered effectively, feedback is useful in influencing achievement and motivating learners.

Not all feedback is created equal. In Focus on Formative Feedback, formative feedback is defined as information communicated to the learner that is intended to modify his or her thinking or behavior for the purpose of improving learning.

Consider the following from Focus on Formative Feedback when providing feedback to students:

  1. Focus feedback on the task:
    Rather than providing feedback focused solely on the learner, feedback should focus on addressing the student’s work in relation to the tasks. Feedback should provide suggestions to the student on how to improve work submitted.  
  2. Provide elaborated feedback:
    Instead of adding feedback that only verifies a result, such as marking something correct or incorrect, provide feedback that describes the what, how, and why of a problem. Show points earned for incorrect responses, as well as mark the correct response as feedback. Providing guidance on why a particular answer is wrong and examples of correct responses is more effective than simply marking a test question wrong.  
  3. Keep feedback simple:
    Feedback that is too complex can hurt rather than help in promoting learning compared to simple feedback. Formative feedback that serves a corrective function verifies whether the student’s answer is correct or incorrect and gives information about the correct response. However, too much feedback can be overwhelming and demotivating. Simple feedback is generally based on only one cue, such as verifying if an answer is correct or providing a hint for learners as they work through problems.  
  4. For difficult tasks, use immediate feedback:
    For learners who are attempting new, difficult tasks for their learning level, providing immediate feedback can help encourage learners from getting frustrated. When students are performing more simple tasks, delayed feedback works better as it allows the learner to progress without too many interruptions.  
  5. Promote a learning goal:
    Formative feedback can help shift the focus from performing to learning. By providing feedback that emphasizes effort and incremental improvements, mistakes can be seen as part of the learning process. Effort is crucial in helping students develop skills through practice, and feedback can serve as a supporting and motivating guide in the process.

Computer-based feedback can be more effective than human-delivered feedback because it can appear less biased. While providing feedback online to many learners can seem like a daunting task, there are plenty of ways to incorporate a combination of computer and human-delivered feedback in your course, such as by enabling automatic feedback on quiz questions and the addition of assignment rubrics. In addition to helping instructors when grading, rubrics allow students to see the criteria used to evaluate their work. Read about how to enable feedback on quizzes and how to add a rubric to an assignment on Canvas. For more complex evaluation, consider leaving audio or video feedback.

For more information on how to deliver feedback, reach out to your instructional designer.


Focus on Formative Feedback: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.3102/0034654307313795

Erika Huezo is a Senior Instructional Designer at FIU Online, Florida International University’s online learning unit. She joined FIU Online in 2010 as a Course Developer, helping to create an introduction to online teaching course for faculty and assisted with the department’s implementation of the Quality Matters (QM) program standards. Erika works closely with faculty to create engaging learning environments and keeps current with instructional theories, tools, and trends.

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