Assessment and Feedback

Day 5: Building student confidence and Practical examples of feedback

‘Teach a man person to fish, and you’ll feed him them for the lifetime’.

* Adjusted to avoid a gender bias.

As discussed on Day 1, educators can’t and shouldn’t be the only (or even the main) source of feedback. There is growing evidence that self-evaluation and reflection have more long-term benefits than external (educator or even peer) feedback (Boud & Falchikov, 2007; Li, Liu, & Steckelberg, 2010), as these practices empower students to take ownership of their feedback processes and increase their confidence. In other words, we want the students to get into the ‘feedback driving seat’, rather than the ‘passenger seat’.

In Day 4 we discussed practical strategies to help improve student Assessment Literacy. Today we’d like to continue by suggesting more strategies to support students in becoming less reliant on external feedback. As always, feel free to add your ideas and perspectives!

Encourage students to predict feedback


Some reasons why many students (and people in general) may not trust their judgements is (i) not practicing making judgements and (ii) not having enough evidence that their judgements align with those of experts.

One strategy to give students these experiences is to encourage students to predict what feedback they will get for their work. This strategy combines ‘self-assessment’ with working closely with the assessment criteria, and has multiple benefits for reducing potential emotional backlash (discussed in Day 2), and improving Assessment Literacy.

For example, you could have students write feedback predictions based on the assessment criteria and submit them along with their assignments. It’s important to acknowledge good predictions and provide more information to those students whose predictions were off the mark.

Ask questions that encourage self-regulation

Image: By Casey Horner,

Ideally, we want students to self-monitor, self-direct and self-regulate their learning. It takes time to build these skills, and being asked the appropriate guiding questions before, during and after the assignment can help.

For example, it may be helpful to create a ‘self-checklist’ of assessment behaviours for students, and/or take every opportunity to ask guiding questions about assignment preparation during tutorials, lectures or in one-to-one conversations with students.

Here are some examples – and we’d be grateful if you could share your questions with the community in the comments section.

  • How clear is the task to you and how well did you ask for clarifications when needed?
  • Who can you ask for assistance if needed?
  • How did you plan your assignment, and what could you have done differently?
  • Is your approach to the task similar to other students? What is similar and what is different about your approach?
  • What did you try to achieve with this this work? Where did you get this expectation from? In retrospect, could you have used other standards? If so, what?
  • What ‘growth’ areas have you identified while doing this work?
  • What would you change if you were to do this piece of work again?


question markPractical Activity

We’d like to conclude this Feedback course with a practical activity. Below are some example of less and more useful feedback comments. The more useful comments include more information, which, as mentioned in Day 4, might be easier to manage via audio or video. However, these examples are not perfect, and we encourage you to build on them and think of even better ways to provide feedback!

Have a go at giving some example feedback for each grade in the comments section.

Less useful More useful Your version (add in the comments section)

This assignment is of acceptable quality, however, its literature review and discussion could be strengthened.

What an engaging and interesting work, Michael. I really enjoyed reading it.

A couple of things could help you get a high distinction in the future:

(1) Approach the literature review differently: when writing a literature review, instead of just listing the studies, try to ‘tell a story’ about your topic and

(2) A deeper discussion: instead of reiterating your key findings at the end of the paper, ask yourself ‘So what? I found…, what does that mean and how does that relate to the literature review and my questions? Does it align with them or have you found anything new? What implications do your findings have?”


This assignment is too broad and lacks critical thinking.

It’s great that you researched the topic so widely, Maria. However, enumerating as many points associated with the topic as possible is not what was required for this assignment. It is usually valued more if you go for depth rather than breadth.

In other words, focus on 1-2 main issues, and really get to the bottom of them (= depth) instead of listing a lot of different issues (= quantity/breadth). For example, the work could have focused on X and Y topic or area and discussed how…………instead of listing all of the issues.


This work does not meet the required criteria. There are numerous problems with the content, as well as the language.

Anthony, on this occasion the assignment is yet to meet the required criteria. Your input in class discussions demonstrated you were understanding the key concepts, but if there were time factors involved I would suggest taking more time on assignments in future. Here is a link to Time Management tips: Learning Skills Support unit StudyWise’s tips (Macquarie University only). Go here for ANU time management tips.

In the future, start working on your assignments earlier, ask for your tutor’s feedback and take advantage of the Learning Skills support. I feel you have the potential to produce a good assignment. You may need to prioritise and start earlier.


Thank you for joining us for this course!



11 thoughts on “Day 5: Building student confidence and Practical examples of feedback

  1. My version of comments –
    Distinction: Good work team! It’s interesting to read and I really enjoyed it. A few thing that you might consider to improve: 1) instead of simply listing the literature, I really would like to see you associate the referred work to your own project to strengthen your contribution to the knowledge and highlight the importance of your work; 2) the conclusion of your paper might be improved in a way to relate your findings to the practical applications or policy directions to highlight the significance of your work.
    Credit: You have a fair articulation of your work. I could see you have put lots of efforts into it. But you need to discuss the issue in more details and explain the implications of these issues, instead of simply listing them. By doing this, it will improve your work a lot so that the reader may understand the big picture and also the fine details.
    Fail: It looks like what’s shown in the assignment is not up to the Pass standard of the assessment rubrics. I don’t rule out the possibility that your team does have a fairly good understanding of the issues involved. But unfortunately it was not demonstrated in the assignment by relevant and deep detailed analysis. I guess timing may play a role in your performance. Please start working on the next assignment early and be assured that I’m always happy to help you to remove the roadblocks along the way.

  2. My attempt at reworking the “More useful” feedback:

    “Good work. Some suggested improvements:

    (1) When writing a literature review, tell a story, instead of just listing the studies,

    (2) At the end of the paper say how your key findings relate to the literature review and your questions.”

    The table of feedback examples looks a bit like what I would expect to see in a rubric. That is the way I like to give the initial feedback, so the student can see the connection between the comment and the mark.

    I found it worrying that several of the items of feedback were about issues which should have been addressed before the student gets to their first assignment . I suggest we should be able to diagnose problems, such as time management and writing, with small exercises in the first few weeks. We should be able to either get the student the help they need and up to speed, or out of the course, before their first assignment is due.

  3. I think those “More Useful” comments are in line with the “context-behavior-impact-next steps” strategy, which intends to be more effective than an unclear description.
    What I am concerned about is that the assignments in our area are mainly problem-solving (example: prove a theorem). The answer is either correct or wrong and there is hardly any space left for “discussion”. How can we give more constructive feedback for these assignments, besides some common comments such as “wrong definition”/”need a deeper understanding of the contents”?

  4. I like the idea of allowing students to predict what feedback they will receive when submitting an assignment. I think it could make for a good in-class exercise for the week after an assignment has been submitted. I’m not sure my students would submit something online unless it was also assessed towards the course total. In the past when teaching smaller groups of students I would often start tutorials with an exercise which combines the two suggested strategies: asking students how well they think writing their essays went and if they would have done something differently. It usually led to an interesting discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the submitted essay and strategies for improving it in the future. But I’m not sure how I could incorporate the same in a group of 50+ students.

    Thank you for a very interesting coffee course! It made me think about my own feedback practices, and I’ve also identified some areas to try out a different approach!

  5. This may be more developing the pre-skills to self-monitoring and -regulation than actual self-monitoring, but I remind my students frequently about upcoming deadlines and timelines, suggesting through questions that they should have selected a topic, come up with a plan/outline, annotated bibliography, first draft, etc by this point. This reminds students of how much time they had to begin with (a common complaint from students who leave things until the last minute is a lack of time), how much time is left, what the expected workload/standard is, and what steps they can take individually to assist their own studies/assignment. It often leads to students coming to see me privately with follow-up questions, which is always a great opportunity for providing feedforward.

    A disagreement I often have with members of my department is whether, and to what extent, we should be actively promoting self-regulation. The dominant belief is that these students are all adults (especially at the Masters level) who should already be doing this, or be able to figure it out on their own. They contend that spending time developing these skills in students is too much hand-holding. However, an increasing proportion of our students do not possess these skills. Perhaps we need to start teaching the “soft skills” we expect our students to graduate with, instead of complaining that each incoming batch is of a lower standard than their predecessors.

  6. One of the ideas I had when reading the above suggestions was to get students to look at the feedback they got from an essay from a (any) the previous course and then think about what they need to work on and how they are going to address that in the upcoming essay. There may be some downsides to this, I wonder if it might draw focus from the current task but its interesting nonetheless. I think getting students to try and predict their work would be interesting, but I definitely think getting students to mark an anonymous piece of work perhaps even coming together as small groups and having to harmonise and justify their marks would be incredibly helpful for getting students to understand how markers use rubrics and what people are looking for when they are marking. I know I often used to get feedback that my writing was repetitive, which is fairly specific feedback but it wasn’t until I started teaching and thus marking student essays that I understood what repetitive writing looked like and why it was so annoying to read! Marking others work, where there is no emotional connection to the writing or activity is one of the best ways of improving your own work I believe.

  7. I’m quite surprised how few people seem to use the Rubrics and Marking Forms in Turnitin. They are a great place to provide general feedback and have the potential to free up teacher time to add a personalised written and/or audio message along and quickmarks to highlight certain parts of concern or triumph.

    I’m not entirely sure that getting people to predict what mark they’ll get is necessarily a good idea. Some people have an inflated view of their abilities while others are much more humble. I once knew a very humble former student of English who explained he was disappointed that he had not risen through the levels as quickly as he’d hoped. His teacher assumed his silence in class meant he was not capable so she kept him in the same level for a long time. However, he was doing an admirable amount of self-study and actually found the content of the class below his abilities and wanted to give others a chance to improve by keeping quiet. Just goes to show how misunderstandings can result from clashes of personality and expectations.

  8. I would suggest adding the activity around the student’s own prediction about the major and minor comments, together with their request for feedback as part of the assignment. Perhaps: What do you feel the assignment exceeds in? Please list and justify (what and why) the three most important aspects. Which aspects the assignment leaves room for improvement? Please list and justify up to three aspects. What would you like to receive feedback on? Please identify the most import aspect. I think this would help to tailor the feedback to the student better and make the feedback more aligned with the student’s own self-reflection — avoid hitting the blind spot.

  9. I like Sunny’s comment defining the feedback in terms of context-behavior-impact-next steps. I also like Hanna’s comment in relation to “What would you like feedback on”. It makes me this that a checklist could be incorporated as part of an assignment submission, as an appendix for example, including the aspects of “what I did well” and “what I need to improve on”. These could be good starter for discussion around feedback when marking the assignment.

  10. I like the idea of asking students to identify ‘growth’ areas that they want to work on it the future. This might also help the marker to provide more useful feedback to the student. For example, if students could nominate an area that they think they need to work on (e.g. structure, analysis of primary sources etc.) that they would like to receive more feedback on the marker could tailor some of their comments specifically to that point. This might also help to mitigate the emotional backlash problem we discussed earlier in the course.

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