Principles of feedback

Feedback is information that you give to your students that helps them close the gap between where they are now with their work, and where they could be. The goal of feedback is to provide students with insight that helps them to improve their performance.  According to Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick (2006), the seven principles of effective feedback include:

  1. Helping to clarify what good performance is. Students require goals, criteria, expected standards for which they can assess their progression. Examples include the provision of clear, concise written instructions, instructional videos, and exemplars.
  2. Facilitating the development of self-assessment (reflection) in learning. Students require opportunities to practice aspects of their own learn and reflect on that practice. Examples include peer feedback and self-feedback processes.
  3. Delivering high quality information to students about their learning. Feedback from teachers is a source against which students can evaluate their progress and check out their own internal constructions of goals, criteria and standards. Feedback needs to be timely, prioritise avenues for improvement and accessible.
  4. Encouraging teacher and peer dialogue around learning. Feedback as dialogue means that students not only receive initial feedback information, but also have the opportunity to engage the teacher in discussion about that feedback. Examples include collated feedback provided for small group discussion, and virtual office meetings.
  5. Encouraging positive motivational beliefs and self-esteem.The focus of feedback is on learning goals (mastering the subject) rather than on performance goals (passing the test, looking good). Feedback given as grades has also been shown to have especially negative effects on the self-esteem of low-ability students (Craven et al., 1991). Examples include providing marks after students have responded to feedback comments, and including processes of draft and resubmissions.
  6. Providing opportunities to close the gap between current and desired performance.Is the feedback of the best quality, and does it lead to changes in student behaviour?  Feedback should help students to recognise the next steps in learning and how to take them, both during production and in relation to the next assignment. Examples include providing feedback on work-in-progress, and use two-stage assignments where feedback on stage one helps improve stage two.
  7. Providing information to teachers that can be used to help shape teaching.In order to produce feedback that meets students’ needs, teachers themselves need good data about how students are progressing (Nicol & Macfarlane-Dick, 2006). They also need to be involved in reviewing and reflecting on this data, and in taking action to help support the development of self-regulation in their students. Examples include, one-minute papers, diagnostic tests and ‘key questions’ for discussion as developed by the students

Resources, strategies or assistance


  • Nicol, D. & Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2006). Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: a model and seven principles of good feedback practice, Studies in Higher Education, 31:2, 199-218.
  • Craven, R. G., Marsh, H. W. & Debus, R. L. (1991) Effects of internally focused feedback on the enhancement of academic self-concept, Journal of Educational Psychology, 83(1), 17–27.