What kinds of feedback on writing do students value?

February 24, 2015

Faculty spend extensive time giving feedback on student work. Have you wondered how often your students read or use your feedback? Turnitin (2015) recently summarized findings from a survey that examined which types of feedback students and faculty believe are helpful.

The types of feedback students most frequently endorsed as very or extremely effective included:

  • Suggestions for improvement (76% endorsed)
  • Specific notes written in the margin (73% endorsed)
  • How well an assignment met the instructor’s criteria and rubric (69% endorsed)
  • Identification of mistakes (69% endorsed)

Feedback that simply provided praise and encouragement (or discouragement) was the least valued form of feedback.

In contrast, faculty who completed the survey seldom endorsed specific marginal notes, identification of mistakes, and suggestions for improvement as effective forms of feedback. The gap between the rate of endorsing these options by students and faculty ranged from 17% to 27%).

Faculty may be surprised by the differences between their assumptions about the kinds of feedback they believe students value and the kinds of feedback students identified as helpful. One explanation for the variation between student and faculty perceptions of feedback might be related to the Turnitin sample, which was dominated by graduate students (58% of the sample), who may value and use feedback differently than undergraduate students.

Instructors might consider the context of course assignments and the characteristics of students enrolled in their course when they make decisions about the type of feedback they provide.

Many instructors believe some types of feedback are not effective because students don’t read the feedback or fail to use feedback to inform their efforts on future assignments. Explain the kinds of feedback you plan to give and ask students about the kinds of feedback they find most useful to help them improve their work. This discussion might increase the likelihood that students will make use of the feedback. Students will be more likely to apply the advice given in feedback if they have a follow-up assignment that creates an opportunity to show that they read and applied the feedback.



Turnitin (January, 2015). Instructor feedback writ large: Student perceptions on effective feedback, White Paper. Turnitin.com. Accessed January 13, 2015.


Updated:2/24/15 cma