student feedback

What Student Feedback Literacy Entails

Student feedback literacy—Is it meaningless academic jargon or destined to become a trendy handle? Neither is my hope for this moniker. While the term was originally defined as a student’s ability to read, interpret, and use written feedback, Carless and Boud (2018) enhance its definition

Read More »

Student Feedback: Should It Change Course Structure?

When it comes to making decisions about what happens in courses, students don’t have much say. Teachers decide what students learn, how they’ll learn it, when they’ll learn it, and finally, whether they have learned it. Expertise and professional responsibilities give teacher power over what

Read More »

Getting More Useful Written Comments from Students

Many faculty don’t expect to learn a lot from those end-of-course student comments. Students don’t write much, don’t always think carefully about what they write, and have been known to make ugly comments. Low expectations would seem to be justified, and that’s unfortunate. Because they’ve

Read More »
Teachers Intentions: Not Always Clear to Students

Teachers’ Intentions: Not Always Clear to Students

Almost 70 percent of students in 10 sections of an introductory biology course reported that the instructor provided a justification for using active learning in the course. That’s encouraging. Students need to know the rationale behind what we ask them to do in the course.

Read More »
surviving negative course evaluations

Surviving Student (dis)Satisfaction Surveys

Just in time to thwart any attempts at starting to unwind and enjoy a well-deserved break from another brutal academic year, automated results of the Student Course Satisfaction Surveys (aka evaluations) arrive in my inbox demanding attention.

Read More »
male professor reviews course evaluations

What Can We Learn from End-of-Course Evaluations?

No matter how much we debate the issue, end-of-course evaluations count. How much they count is a matter of perspective. They matter if you care about teaching. They frustrate you when you try to figure out what they mean. They haven’t changed; they are regularly

Read More »
college students in large classroom

Continuous and Rapid Testing (CaRT): A Simple Tool for Assessment and Communication

Most conventional assessment strategies provide limited opportunities for instructors to realign teaching methods and revisit topics that students have not understood well. Teachers can communicate with students individually, but time constraints may prevent multiple individual conversations. Some students in the classroom are reluctant to ask

Read More »
female student at computer

Course Evaluations: How Can Should We Improve Response Rates?

Shortly after 2000, higher education institutions started transitioning from paper and pencil student-rating forms to online systems. The online option has administrative efficiency and economics going for it. At this point, most course evaluations are being conducted online. Online rating systems have not only institutional

Read More »
Professor in empty classroom

Student Ratings—Reminders and Suggestions

Recent research verifies that when looking at small differences in student ratings, faculty and administrators (in this case, department chairs) draw unwarranted conclusions. That’s a problem when ratings are used in decision-making processes regarding hiring, reappointment, tenure, promotion, merit increases, and teaching awards. It’s another

Read More »

Get the Latest Updates

Subscribe To Our Weekly Newsletter

Magna Digital Library

Student feedback literacy—Is it meaningless academic jargon or destined to become a trendy handle? Neither is my hope for this moniker. While the term was originally defined as a student’s ability to read, interpret, and use written feedback, Carless and Boud (2018) enhance its definition by adding that it’s “the understandings, capacities and dispositions needed to make sense of information and use it to enhance work or learning strategies” (p. 1316). In this excellent article, they propose four features that provide the framework for student feedback literacy: appreciating feedback, making judgments, managing affect, and taking action. (Editor's note: See David Carless's Teaching Professor article on student feedback literacy here.)

For Those Who Teach from Maryellen Weimer

The role they lay out for feedback sharply contrasts with how many students understand and experience it. Teachers identify strengths and weaknesses in an assignment and tell students how to improve. Despite extensive teacher comments, students often ignore the feedback or seem unable to implement the suggestions in subsequent work. What students would really like from teachers isn’t feedback but a clear description of what the teacher wants. If they can figure that out, then chances for a good grade improve, or so they think. Focusing on what the teacher wants construes feedback in misleading ways. These authors, both with an impressive collection of research and writing on feedback, propose ways to reorient students to feedback and thereby increase its impact.

Feedback literacy starts with students appreciating the value of feedback—recognizing that they can learn from it and act on it. Teacher feedback focused on telling students what they need to do doesn’t usually make them appreciate feedback. Carless and Boud point out that there’s an academic language necessary to understand, interpret, and act on feedback, and without that language, it’s hard for students to see connections between the feedback, their grade, and learning. “Those comments on my paper are just your opinions,” a student once told me.

We want students to use feedback to improve their work, and we will achieve that goal only if students are also making judgments about their work. Most students are not very good at evaluating what they’ve done, and it’s often the weakest students who struggle the most with self-assessment. Accurate self-assessment is important for professional reasons; teachers won’t always be there to identify and correct mistakes. But equally important is the motivation necessary to make changes, and learners are more likely to change what they have determined needs changing.

Feedback literacy also requires managing affect—those feelings, emotions, and attitudes that arise from our connection to our work and the judgments others make about it. As most of us have learned, it takes practice to disconnect the person from the performance. Students tend to take negative comments personally, drawing large conclusions about their abilities from them. “The tone in which feedback is shared is one of the most critical aspects of how students react to feedback” (p. 1318). There’s strong research evidence that students’ engagement with feedback increases when they believe their teacher cares about them as learners.

Finally and possibly most important of all is taking action. It is so disappointing to have provided students with feedback they can act on only for them to repeat the same errors in the next assignment. We may be underestimating the difficulty of taking feedback from one assignment and acting on it in the next one. The feedback literacy framework unambiguously shows that end-of-course feedback by its very nature reduces the likelihood of the action step. Designing multistage assignments and projects with several feedback opportunities develops literacy “through coherent iterative sequences in which students generate, receive and use feedback” (p. 1322).

To develop students’ ability to use both internal and external feedback, activities involving feedback need to be included in the course and incorporated in multiple courses across the curriculum of a program or major. I was just recently reminded how some of these skills take a lifetime of practice: I had a paper rejected. After being in a funk for several days, I reread the piece, more than once. I can’t for the life of me figure out what’s in it not to like.


Carless, D., & Boud, D. (2018). The development of student feedback literacy: Enabling uptake of feedback. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 43(8), 1315–1325. [open access]

To sign up for weekly email updates from The Teaching Professor, visit this link.