What makes for effective feedback: staff and student perspectives

Phillip Dawson, Michael Henderson, Paige Mahoney, Michael Phillips, Tracii Ryan, David Boud, Elizabeth Molloy

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    234 Citations (Scopus)


    Since the early 2010s the literature has shifted to view feedback as a process that students do where they make sense of information about work they have done, and use it to improve the quality of their subsequent work. In this view, effective feedback needs to demonstrate effects. However, it is unclear if educators and students share this understanding of feedback. This paper reports a qualitative investigation of what educators and students think the purpose of feedback is, and what they think makes feedback effective. We administered a survey on feedback that was completed by 406 staff and 4514 students from two Australian universities. Inductive thematic analysis was conducted on data from a sample of 323 staff with assessment responsibilities and 400 students. Staff and students largely thought the purpose of feedback was improvement. With respect to what makes feedback effective, staff mostly discussed feedback design matters like timing, modalities and connected tasks. In contrast, students mostly wrote that high-quality feedback comments make feedback effective – especially comments that are usable, detailed, considerate of affect and personalised to the student’s own work. This study may assist researchers, educators and academic developers in refocusing their efforts in improving feedback.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)25-36
    Number of pages12
    JournalAssessment & Evaluation in Higher Education
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2019


    • Assessment feedback
    • effective feedback
    • purpose of feedback

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