How Am I Doing? – The Importance of Feedback in Higher Education

Young adult college students can be tricky, especially when you consider they are going through all these changes and sometimes they can hardly understand themselves! How are we supposed to help them learn, if we cannot communicate properly?

Feedback is one of the most powerful and least understood tools teachers have (and even less understood when college students are part of the equation). Thereby it is imperative that teachers can be able to communicate to their students how they are doing and what it is expected from them. If the educator is not able to communicate and guide his or her students it will be impossible for their students to improve and learn properly.

After a lot of research (including this article and this publication), I have put together a list of key elements that must be taken into account when giving feedback in higher education:

  • GIVING FEEDBACK TO WHAT? Usually we think about giving feedback to a student—who else will listen to what we have to say? Of course the message´s final destination will always be the student, but feedback can be given to: the student´s homework, the process they are using to solve a problem, their train of thought, and to the student directly.
  • HOW SHOULD WE GIVE FEEDBACK? You can talk to a student or to the whole class, write feedback to a working group, in their paper, or include thoughts in a blog or wiki. Feeling creative? Share a video or make your own audio. When thinking about how, just think of the many innovative ways we can communicate nowadays!
  • WHEN TO GIVE FEEDBACK? Before, during, or after a learning task is being executed. When thinking about when to give feedback, you should remember what you are giving feedback to, a task that you want to explain BEFORE perfectly so that your students know what it is expected from them. Or maybe a process DURING the project they are working on; giving feedback AFTER everything is finished can be helpful for them for their next task (although it is not always recommended since your prior feedback might  have already helped them learn and produce a better result as a result).
  • IT’S ABOUT THEM: KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. Yes college students are tough, but if you are able to connect with them and recognize their ideas, struggles, contexts, and way of learning, your feedback will have a bigger impact on their leaning (which is ultimately what we want: for them to learn!) A good interaction and communication will result in successful feedback.
  • IT’S ABOUT THEM: DELIVERING, RECEIVING AND BEYOND. Feedback goes both ways, the first three ideas focus on how to deliver a message, the fourth starts talking about how they will receive it. This feedback interaction must goes beyond delivering and receiving a message—interaction and teacher-student participation must be taken into account. How? Let students help design the evaluation criteria for a project (they will be more engaged and willing to pay attention to your feedback), give them the opportunity to give you feedback about how you can improve your class (interact!), or explain the importance of feedback and help them keep in mind these important questions during homework:
    • Where am I going?
    • How do I get there? –and-
    • How can I improve next time?   
  • IT’S ABOUT THEM: THEIR OPINION MATTERS. QUALITY MATTERS. When talking about higher education and feedback, students are demanding when it comes to the quality of feedback they are given. Different statistics show that students like clear, simple, and positive feedback that expresses directly how to improve.

Not convinced about the importance of feedback? Well, let me see if we can change that. When feedback is properly used it can: help clarify what´s expected from a student (goals, standards, criteria), help students develop their own learning self-assessment, motivate students and lift their self-esteem; it can also help the teacher understand the gaps between what is taught and what it is learned, and this can help teachers improve their lectures.   

So, how am I doing? Have I convinced you that this powerful tool call feedback can help you and your students improve? 

Please leave your comments. I would love your feedback.  😉


Lorena Bianchi is a Guatemalan who is passionate about continuous learning and improvement for all in order to unleash their potential.  She has her M.A. in Leadership and Management in Education.  

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