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The Types of Feedback that Help Students the Most

When it comes to giving feedback, instructors often struggle to find ways to communicate to students what they need to do to improve their writing.

In 2014, Turnitin surveyed more than 2,400 students, 97% of which were either in bachelor or graduate programs. We asked them what types of feedback they felt were most effective and what types of feedback they received most regularly.

The results, in terms of what feedback was effective, was fairly consistent. All types of feedback were seen by over half of the students as being either very or extremely effective. In fact, all but one type of feedback saw between 67% and 76% of the students saying it was at least very effective.

The outlier, which still had 56% of the students saying it helped, was general praise or discouragement. At the top of the pile was suggestions for improvement, which slightly edged out the pack with the aforementioned 76% of students saying it was at least very effective.

Still, it’s clear that students take all types of feedback from instructors seriously. However, they don’t seem to receive all of the types regularly.

When asked if they received certain types very or extremely often, 68% said that they received general comments regularly while only 36% said they received examples regularly. Suggestions for improvement, the type of feedback rated most effective by students, was only seen regularly by 58% of students.

However, a great deal of this disconnect may be because of differing opinions between educators and students.

For example, 67% of students said that general comments were at least very effective though only 34% of educators did. Likewise, 73% of students said that specific notes in the margin were effective while less than half, 46%, of educators felt the same way.

In fact, across every category students rated feedback as being more effective than educators. Though some types were significantly closer than others, with praise or discouragement being seen as effective for 53% for educators and 57% for students, in every case students felt the feedback was more effective than their educators.

And that lack of belief in feedback showed through in the student’s answers, with a significant percentage saying that they didn’t regularly receive any feedback at all.

This means that educators, for the most part, need to care less about the types of feedback they are giving and more about whether they are giving enough.

Still, for educators looking to improve the types of feedback they give, suggestions for improvement and feedback directly related to the rubric were rated at least slightly more effective. Also, there’s not much reason to worry about whether positive or negative comments are more effective as the two were in a statistical tie at around 69%.

In short, students seem to take feedback seriously, even if their instructors, at least sometimes, seem to downplay the impact it can have.

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Related Resources:
Four Tips to Transform Your Students' Writing—and How You Assess It
Favorite Feedback: Fact and Fiction (Infographic)