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Center for Teaching & Learning: Feedback for Learning

Supporting the MCPHS faculty and staff in their commitment to excellence and innovation in teaching and learning

Fast Student Feedback for You

Short on time. Try this informal and easy technique to get a read on your students' experience in the course. Learn what works, what's okay, and what support they would like.

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Using Technology to Give Better Feedback

If you're short on time, read How to Give Your Students Better Feedback With Technology Advice Guide from The Chronicle of Higher Education!  The article explores when and why to audio or video or text for feedback. Don't miss the 4 Key Qualities of Good Feedback section.

More Approaches to Providing Student Feedback

How to Give Feedback offers two strategies when you're short on time! Scroll down for Look for Common Errors and Prioritize Feedback  (from MIT's Teaching + Learning Lab)

Feedback: Instructor to Student

Providing feedback is the backbone of teaching. Timely objective and authentic feedback should support student learning. It informs your students' personal assessment of their progress and helps them identify their strengths and their weaknesses.  Professors provide feedback in many forms, such as: written comments, audio or video recording, rubrics, in-class comments, or emails.


Use feedback to:

  • Help students identify where they are now with respect to where they are going.
  • Provide correction to current and future work.
  • Prompt further learning.
  • Maximize the chance that student achievement will increase.

from Georgia Department of Education

Using Blackboard's Retention Center for Student Feedback

The Blackboard Retention Center is an excellent tool for tracking students' progress and easily sending targeted feedback. Your proactive feedback can support changes in their learning and study habits and motivate self-directed learning. You can also use the Retention Center to track and recognize student success.


How do you translate the Retention Center's chart into valuable feedback?

Use the Notify option to customize the generic messages and quickly send your feedback.  Effective feedback should:

  • Identify the reason for the notification.
  • Make specific suggestions for improvement.
  • Direct the student to resources if needed.
  • Recommend strategies for change.
  • Be timely.


Send Customized Notifications:

TIP: Consider developing your own standardized notifications that you can copy and paste. From the BITS presentation, Dr. Cigdem V. Sirin offers a good example. 


Performance and intervention e-mail - sent to those who received a D or an F from Exam 1:
I am writing to you regarding your exam score.  As you know, students need a final letter grade of at least a C or higher to successfully pass this course.  That said, I believe you have the potential to succeed in this course with adequate effort and willingness and I will be happy to help you.  Keep in mind that there are still opportunities... I suggest that you complete the assigned readings before each class meeting and attend class regularly.  Exams will cover material from the readings and the lectures, so doing just one or the other will leave you at a disadvantage...  "

Try These Rule Ideas:

  • Create an activity rule to track which students haven't logged in two or more days. Use the Notify option to send feedback. Let them know that in online courses, students who log in to their courses more frequently and participate more often generally do better in the course.
  • Create a grade rule to track students who have earned less than a C. Send a "good effort" notification to those students and a gentle reminder that there is still room for improvement. Offer a study tip or referral to the tutoring center for example. You should consider more in-depth feedback depending upon the grade (i.e., failing).
  • Create a missed deadline rule for a specific assignment such as a first draft. Send a reminder that the deadline was missed, but that the draft will still be accepted because first drafts are part of the writing process. Explain the benefits of writing drafts. Offer guidance for example on organizing content, improving grammar, or developing a thesis.
  • Create a class activity rule to monitor students whose activity over the last 10 days has been 50% greater than the course average AND create a grade rule to identify those who earned a B or greater in the last exam. Use the risk chart to identify the students who meet both of these criteria. Send congratulations on their hard work. Acknowledgment of successes demonstrates teaching presence - it shows that you noticed their effort.

7 Keys to Effective Feedback

7 Keys include: Goal-referenced, tangible and transparent, actionable, user-friendly, timely, ongoing, and consistent

Goal-referenced: Feedback leads student to reach a goal.; Tangible and transparent: The desired results should be clear. Actionable and User-friendly: Students should know what to do with feedback. Timely: It shouldn't take too long for them to get feedback. Ongoing: Students get lots of opportunities to improve. Consistent: Feedback needs to be stable, accurate and trustworthy.

Feedback: Student to Instructor

Mid-Semester feedback gives students to opportunity to share their concerns, and allows you time to make appropriate changes to the course. These surveys are not the same as the final course evaluations given by the school or department. They are for you to learn more about your students and their learning experience with you. The focus is on your teaching presence, the course delivery & design, and how engaged the students feel.  And, any instructor can easily use their Blackboard course to conduct an online survey, even for face-to-face courses.

Why Seek Student Feedback?

  • Enhance students' learning experience
  • Ensure the effectiveness of the course design and delivery
  • Enable a dialog with students
  • Help students reflect on their experiences
  • Identify good teaching practices
  • Measure student satisfaction
  • Contribute to staff development

(Brennan & Williams, 2004, p.11)

What Should You Ask?

Just like writing an exam, it's important to ask the right questions. Instructors should think through their past teaching experiences and consider which areas they want to examine and which areas they would like to improve. Select two to three topics to keep the survey reasonably brief and encourage completion.

The surveys may include questions such as:

  • Does the instructor treat students with respect?
  • Does the instructor encourage class participation?
  • What is working well for you in this class? What are you struggling with? 
  • What could the instructor change to improve your learning experience in this class? 

Another well-known approach is the Stop, Start, Continue survey method. It's fast and easy to conduct. There are three open-ended questions, which often yield very rich information.

  1. Stop: What would you like me to stop doing?
  2. Start: What recommendations do you?
  3. Continue: What is working well for you?


Gathering Feedback from Students article includes sample forms for the classroom from Vanderbilt University 

Large set of sample mid-semester feedback surveys includes items from Princeton, Middle Tennessee State University, Otis College of Art, UC Berkeley, Brown, Carnegie Mellon, NYU, Washington University, and Humboldt State University.

Mid-Semester Feedback article from University of Texas, Austin's Faculty Innovation Center. This article discusses the "why" of collecting student feedback during the semester and the "how", which includes selecting the right survey, administering it, and analyzing the results.

Student questionnaire template and a list of question ideas from The McGraw Center for Teaching & Learning at Princeton University 

Student Assessment of Their Learning Gains
This free online tool is based on work supported by a  National Science Foundation grant. You can learn more about the validity, the privacy policy, and how to use the tool by visiting the website.

Use of the 'Stop, Start, Continue' Method journal article in Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education

Three Ways to Use Student Feedback to Improve Your Course from Faculty Focus. Give surveys, initiate a small group instructional feedback session (SGIF), or conduct a focus group.


Brennan, J. and Williams, R. (2004), Collecting and using student feedback: A guide to good practice. Retrieved from

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