Provide effective feedback

Feedback is one of the most important influences on learning. This page explains how to give feedback in an effective manner.


Feedback is considered to be one of the most important influences on learning (Hattie & Timperley, 2007). Providing effective feedback is therefore very rewarding for both the student and the teacher or supervisor. According to Hattie & Timperley (2007), the most important goal of feedback is to reduce the gap between the current and desired situation. In other words, closing the gap between what the student currently can do (skill level) and the defined learning objective.

Feedback levels and questions

In order to close the gap between the student’s current level and the learning objective, feedback should answer three different questions:

Feedback question


Where am I going?


Insight into the desired situation.

How am I doing?


Insight into the current situation.

Where to go next?


Insight into how to close the gap between current and desired situation.


Second, Hattie and Timperley (2007) state that these feedback questions can be addressed on four different levels: task, process, self-regulation and person. Thus, in order to provide effective feedback, a teacher should always try to give feedback at the level on which the student needs feedback to reduce the gap between his current and desired situation. Feedback at each single level will have a different effect. Feedback on the person-level usually won’t result in learning, but is often present in educational settings. It is not very effective because it usually contains little task- or process-related information.


Feedback about how well the task is being accomplished or performed, feedback on content of assignments


Feedback specific to the processes underlying the tasks, providing deeper understanding.


Feedback to the way students monitor, direct and regulate actions towards the learning objective.


Directed at the student her- or himself, without referring to task or process.


Hattie and Timperley (2007) suggest that over the course of a module, feedback needs to move up the levels. A supervisor should start with providing feedback on task-level and then move step-by-step towards the self-regulation level each time a student masters a step.

How to deliver feedback

Pre-conditions for feedback

Carless et al. (2006) stated that the effect of feedback will be a net negative if it is unspecific, unclear, or if it affects the confidence of the student in a negative way. When you give feedback try to:

  • Give it timely (the sooner the better)
  • Be as specific as possible
  • Balance positive feedback and feedback for improvement. Pointing out every mistake will lead to the bigger picture being overlooked

Delivering feedback on behaviour

When giving feedback, apply the following steps to help get the message across, focusing on the specific behaviour and not damaging the relationship:

  1. Make the student feel at ease
  2. Share the specific observed behaviour: “I noticed you were absent last week”
  3. Check if the student recognises this: “Do you recognise this?”
  4. Link the behaviour observed to its effects: “By not showing up, the workload for your fellow students increases”
  5. Check again: “Do you recognise this?”
  6. Provide insight into the desired behavior: “Your team needs your present in order to make the deadline. How could you solve this problem?”
  7. Check if the student has understood completely: “Does this allow you to continue in the right direction?”

Written feedback

Providing written feedback can be beneficial to a student’s learning process. Doing so effectively means that you need to combine it with dialogue, to reach deep-level learning. Moreover, it is important to distinguish between higher-order concerns (such as strategic or analytical issues) or lower-order concerns (such as spelling or lay-out). Communicate your feedback in a clear, (visually) concise, and constructive way (provide feedback on the positive things) in order to reach the maximum efficacy.

Feedback question

Postponing feedback Sugar-coating
Choosing the wrong setting Generalising

“You”-message (giving feedback on person-level instead of other level)

Not connecting behaviour & effect
One-directional conversation Not checking during conversation



  • Carless, D., Salter, D., Yang, M., & Lam, J. (2011). Developing sustainable feedback practices. Studies in Higher Education, 36(4), 395-407.
  • Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81-112.