student with hand raised while professor hands her a paper

Providing Effective Feedback

Our grading policies reflect our prior experiences and current beliefs about student learning and success, and they can vary even between faculty in the same department who are teaching the same course. We may believe that our grading practices are equitable, but sometimes those policies can unintentionally perpetuate achievement inequities.

You may want to reflect on your feedback and grading policies to determine whether they promote equity and transparency for your students. While grading and providing feedback often require a significant time commitment, they are essential to students’ learning and success. It is in both our and our students’ best interest to make that feedback effective and fair.


female professor at desk writing, surrounded by stacks of paper

Grading and Providing Feedback: Consistency, Effectiveness, and Fairness

This Wiley resource presents helpful, quick tips for providing fair, consistent, and effective feedback to students. While grading is important, providing feedback is equally important. Useful feedback is prioritized, descriptive, constructive, actionable, and timely.

male professor recording audio on a laptop

Audio Feedback: Student and Teaching Assistant Perspectives on an Alternative Mode of Feedback for Written Assignments

In this study, Rawle et. al (2018) employed audio feedback in a large undergraduate biology class. Student responses revealed this style of feedback was constructive, engaging, and can help counter disengagement common in large introductory courses.

close up of hands typing on laptop keyboard with transparent checklist hovering in front of the screen

The Art of Giving Online Feedback

In this article, Leibold and Schwarz (2015) discuss evidence-based best practices for providing online feedback to learners. Effective feedback in online courses is essential to student success. Effective feedback is prompt and frequent, has a positive tone, is specific, and is balanced.

Recommended Strategies

Choose one of the following strategies to implement

Employ a Positive Tone in Feedback

Striking the right tone is an important part of effective feedback. Begin your feedback with encouraging and positive comments about the student’s work. Students may be more receptive to the rest of your feedback when you reduce defensiveness by first pointing out their strengths.

Use Audio to Humanize and Personalize Feedback

Students perceive audio feedback as more personal and may be more likely to review audio feedback. Some faculty find that recording feedback feels more natural to them. Try recording audio (or video) feedback in Blackboard for an upcoming assignment and ask students whether they prefer audio/video to text-based feedback. You may also want to provide information to students on how to view their grades and feedback in Blackboard.

Communicate Actionable Feedback to Students

Your feedback for students should be actionable; that is, students should immediately know what action they need to take after reviewing your feedback. Provide feedback on an upcoming assignment that explains specifically what students need to improve and suggests a plan of action to make those improvements.  

Selected Additional Resources

Students' lives are complex, so the support they need is equally complex. Here are a few more resources on connecting students with support resources.

  • Formative Feedback: Involving Students as Partners in Assessment to Enhance Learning – This scholarly article discusses the results of four strategies for engaging students in the feedback process (you may need to log in with your NIU credentials to view the article).
  • The Process of Grading – In this NIU CITL Instructional Guide, you are encouraged to develop a personal teaching philosophy. It also outlines Walvoord and Anderson’s 12 principles to help faculty understand and work through the complexity of grading (Effective Grading: A Tool for Learning and Assessment).

Next Steps

Please review the resources and select at least one of the recommended strategies to implement. Make a note to yourself about the strategy you used and the impact that it had.

In two weeks, we will share resources on collecting mid-semester feedback. If you have any questions or concerns in the meantime, feel free to let us know at

Creative Commons License Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License with the exception of any images, unless specifically noted.

Contact Us

Center for Innovative
Teaching and Learning

Phone: 815-753-0595

Back to top