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Feedback is probably the most crucial way in which you can support your learners through their learning process. The way in which you provide feedback can have a dramatic influence on your learners’ confidence in the subject, and their motivation to continue persevering, especially if they are struggling.

By following a few simple guidelines, you can give your learners the kind of feedback that boosts their confidence and helps them to overcome even the toughest of challenges. Constructive feedback is:

  • Prompt, research shows that if learners receive feedback within 14 days of submitting an assignment, they are more likely to act on it than if they are made to wait longer. 

  • Specific, giving the learner a clear indication of where the strengths and weaknesses lie. 

  • Thoughtful, indicating that the tutor has put time and effort into trying to understand what the learner is saying. 

  • Related to the learning outcomes, and includes an explanation of how the grade/ mark was arrived at. 

  • Also related to the learner’s assignment-writing skills, and gives advice on study skills where appropriate. 

  • Related to the course material, so that learners know where to look for further information if required. 

  • Focused on the most important improvements needed, rather than overwhelming learners with details about minor improvements that could be made. 

  • Written in plain, jargon-free language that learners will understand with ease. 

  • Fair. 

  • Honest – both in terms of its praise and its criticism. 

  • Supportive and encouraging – focusing on the work, not the learner. 

  • Personal, referring to the learner by name. 


The following examples of tutor feedback on a student’s assignment are taken from Mitra, S. 2008. Manual for the Tutors of Learning Centres in Open Schools. Pp. 65-6. Commonwealth of Learning. (Creative Commons attribution license.) Have a look at the two tutors’ feedback in relation to the above guidelines for giving constructive feedback to learners. Which one fulfils most of the criteria above? 

Feedback by tutor1

Mitra (2008) p.65

Feedback by tutor 2

Mitra (2008) p.66

Additional resources

Mitra, S. 2008. Manual for the Tutors of Learning Centres in Open Schools. Commonwealth of Learning. Retrieved April 24, 2009 from http://www.col.org/resources/publications/trainingresources/Pages/tutorManual.aspx