Feedback & Rubricscolorful talk bubbles


Here are some tips for improving feedback in general. 

  • Prepare students in advance Use rubrics, checklists, or examples of good and average assignments. Provide these items in advance of the assignment in order to allow students to use these tools when the complete the assignment. These same terms can be used to provide meaningful feedback later. This also provides a clear way to explain grading choices.
  • Establish Respect and Trust  Feedback language should offer suggestions, be friendly and be encouraging. Remember that words without the nuance of a person' s presence or voice can be read with different tones. Be sure your words help to establish a friendly tone that shows respect for students.  
  • Replace the old compliment sandwich with nonjudgmental critiques and suggestions The compliment sandwich has been around, and some say it is ineffectual. This is when you "sandwich" negative feedback by starting and ending with positive feedback or praise. It is more effective to offer more precise information in language that is nonjudgmental. People often do not get enough information, or the information isn't specific enough. It is also important to separate the work from the student. Keep comments impersonal and make suggestions using language that uses questions or suggestions instead of criticism. Couch comments in "I" language: "I got lost here." or "I'm confused. Did you mean to say...." 
  • Limit the Amount of Feedback There is a limit to the amount of feedback that is useful. Do not overwhelm students with feedback, but focus on key areas that need additional work. Instead use feedback to provide specific and clear feedback. You might include whether you are address a minor or a major point in terms of its effect on evaluation, and whether it is found only once or throughout the paper. 
  • Consider audio or video feedback Using rich feedback can provide students with more cues on the tone and purpose of your feedback.
  • Encourage Students to Use Questions or Checks to Review their own Assignments Supply students with a checklist or set of questions that they can use to review their own assignment and reflect. Examples:
      • Does the first paragraph orient the reader to the main topic of the paper?
      • Does the body of the paper contain three main points?
      • Are the arguments supported by evidence?
      • Is each main claim supported by an example? 
  • Incorporate Peer Feedback  One way to improve performance is to involve students in the grading process. This needs to have specific criteria. Anonymity or random assignment can help to avoid student social concerns with rating peer's work. You can also include self-ratings of work based on clear criteria. 
  • Consider building revision into the course Make the feedback more relevant by incorporating at least one revision of an assignment based on the feedback received. Often the usefulness of feedback is minimized because students do not have to implement the feedback in an assignment. Instead the feedback becomes a type of justification for a grade, as well as a general indication of the student's ability to perform at a certain level within the course based on the level of effort they have expended. However, in practical situations, feedback must usually be acted upon.  Consider creating an assignment early in the course that allows students to learn more from the feedback to improve skills. 
  • Provide solutions and resources with feedback Consider feedback to specific students or the class as a whole that answers common misconceptions or makes students aware of assistance that is available to them, such as a Writing Center, online or in-person tutoring on specific types of skills, or library workshops and resources on how to conduct research or cite sources.
  • Point students to the future Refer to how the feedback can help the student prepare for or succeed in future assignments. 


Rubrics are matrixes or tables that typically provide a list of the main criteria by which an assignment will be graded as the rows, while the columns provide the different levels of accomplishment. Rubrics need not be complex, and can take several forms. Below is a fairly generic example to show one way that rubrics can be constructed. Links are provided to additional rubrics types and templates to create your own rubric. Most learning management systems support the creation of rubrics within the LMS for use in grading.

Rubrics may include exact percentages, point values, or point value ranges. The score may be included as one score, or each area in the rubric may be scored and then totaled. Rubrics or checklists can also simply contain the option to mark as completed or incomplete. The Preflight Program's feedback form is a form of checklist. Rubrics and checklists can offer students clear guidelines for assignments, especially when they are provided in advance. They also can help faculty grade more quickly, efficiently, and fairly by standardizing the way by which each assignment is assessed. 

Rubric Example

RUBRIC EXAMPLE  Excellent Good Fair Poor
Grammar No errors to spelling or grammar. Very few/minor errors to spelling and grammar A few major errors to spelling and grammar Many major errors to spelling and grammar
Content Clearly articulated and insightful Content covers all instructions given but provides fewer original ideas. Covers most of the instructions given.  Does not cover many of the items required for the assignment.




Don't reinvent the wheel! Find a good rubric to use or edit in one of these locations!

* Some ideas adapted from Columbia University Graduate School of Arts & Sciences Teaching Center handout, "How to Provide Constructive Feedback--That Won't Exasperate Your Students" (