Types of feedback

Feedback can serve a number of purposes and take a number of forms. Feedback can be provided as a single entity – ie: informal feedback on a student’s grasp of a concept in class – or a combination of multiple entities – ie: formal, formative, peer feedback on stage one of an assessment task. Each has its place in enhancing and maximising student learning, thus where possible, courses should provide opportunities for a range of feedback types.

Informal feedback

Informal feedback can occur at any times as it is something that emerges spontaneously in the moment or during action. Therefore informal feedback requires the building of rapport with students to effectively encourage, coach or guide them in daily management and decision-making for learning. This might occur in the classroom, over the phone, in an online forum or virtual classroom.

Formal feedback

Formal feedback is planned and systematically scheduled into the process. Usually associated with assessment tasks, formal feedback includes the likes of marking criteria, competencies or achievement of standards, and is recorded for both the student and organisation as evidence.

Formative feedback

The goal of formative assessment is to monitor student learning to provide ongoing feedback that can be used by instructors to improve their teaching and by students to improve their learning. Therefore formative feedback is best given early in the course, and prior to summative assessments. Formative feedback helps students to improve and prevent them from making the same mistakes again. In some cases, feedback is required before students can progress, or feel capable of progressing, to the next stage of the assessment.

Summative feedback

The goal of summative assessment is to evaluate student learning at the end of an instructional unit by comparing it against some standard or benchmark. Therefore summative feedback consists of detailed comments that are related to specific aspects of their work, clearly explains how the mark was derived from the criteria provided and additional constructive comments on how the work could be improved.

Student peer feedback

There is no longer need for teachers to be the only experts within a course. With basic instruction and ongoing support, students can learn to give quality feedback, which is highly valued by peers. Providing students with regular opportunities to give and receive peer feedback enriches their learning experiences and develops their professional skill set.

Student self feedback

This is the ultimate goal of feedback for learning. During the provision of feedback, teachers have the opportunity not only to provide direction for the students, but to teach them, through explicit modelling and instruction, the skills of self-assessment and goal setting, leading them to become more independent (Sackstein, 2017). To help students reach autonomy teachers can explicitly identify, share, and clarify learning goals and success criteria; model the application of criteria using samples; provide guided opportunities for self-feedback; teach students how to use feedback to determine next steps and set goals; and allow time for self-feedback/reflection.

Constructive feedback

This type of feedback is specific, issue-focused and based on observations. There are four types of constructive feedback:

  • Negative feedback – corrective comments about past behaviour. Focuses on behaviour that wasn’t successful and shouldn’t be repeated.
  • Positive feedback – affirming comments about past behaviour. Focuses on behaviour that was successful and should be continued.
  • Negative feed-forward – corrective comments about future performance. Focuses on behaviour that should be avoided in the future.
  • Positive feed-forward – affirming comments about future behaviour. Focused on behaviour that will improve performance in the future.

Resources, strategies or assistance


  • Gielen, S, Peeters, E., Dochy, F. Onghena, P. & Struyven, K. (2010) Improving effectiveness of peer feedback for learning. Learning Instruction. Volume 20, Issue 4, pages 304-315
  • Sackstein, S., (2017). Peer feedback in the classroom: Empowering students to be the experts. Alexandria, Virginia: ASCD.