Formative Feedback

post it saying FeedbackWhat is Formative Feedback?

“Formative feedback is an intentional, voluntary, developmental strategy for instructors to receive feedback about their teaching, with the goal of better understanding and improving student learning” (Jeffs & Piera, 2016)

“Formative feedback has been shown in numerous studies to improve students’ learning and enhance teachers’ teaching to the extent that the learners are receptive and the feedback is on target (valid), objective, focused, and clear.” (Shute, 2008, p. 182)

Questions to ask yourself

Jeffs & Piera (2016) recommend these questions you should ask yourself about getting formative feedback from students:

  • What type of feedback would you like to receive?
  • Is there something in particular you are concerned about that you will be willing to tweak based on student feedback?
  • How will you assess and interpret the feedback?
    • What insights did you glean and what will you do with that feedback?

What to do with feedback

Vanderbilt Teaching & Learning Centre recommends the following actions, once you have received feedback

    • Report general results back to students promptly
    • Critically reflect on students’ comments and share with students what you can change and what you cannot
    • Identify patterns
    • Remember the positive


Formative Feedback Instruments

green traffic light

CCBY Paweł Czerwiński

There is evidence that the ‘Start, Stop, Continue’ method contributes to higher quality feedback than non-structure feedback (Hoon, Oliver, Szpakowska, & Newton, 2015). This formative feedback consists of three main questions:

  • What would you like the instructor to START doing?
  • What would you like the instructor to STOP doing?
  • What would you like the instructor to CONTINUE doing?
hour glass with sand falling to measure time

CCBY Photo by Nathan Dumlao

Perhaps one of the most used formative feedback techniques (Chizmar & Ostrosky, 1998) is the ‘One-Minute Paper’. It is a quick and simple method to obtain feedback from students, to and for the instructor. This can be used at any time, and adapted to fit the instructors’ needs. You can prepare a form to handout, or ask students to take out a blank piece of paper to answer the questions you have prepared (2 or 3 questions max). Critical to the success of this strategy, instructors summarize the input gathered, as well as specific strategies and changes they will implement based on the students’ feedback at a future class meeting.

Brightspace's Content Reports tool depicting when students accessed content and for how longThe Class Progress and Content Reports tools in Brightspace can give you some cursory data about whether students are able to log in and what pages they are accessing. Use of this tool for assessment is not recommended but it can be a good early warning system to use in case students have not logged on after the first week of term or for an extended period during the term. Instructors may choose to directly act on this information through Intelligent Agents tool, or rely on their own intelligence.

screenshot of a formative feedback form

You can add some quantitative ratings for the course perception overall or an open ended question at the end. CPI recommends the use of Office Forms or Qualtrics for anonymous feedback online.

Contact to access office form templates or to discuss gathering formative feedback.

References and Additional Resources

Boud, D., Keough, R., & Walker, D. (Eds.). (1985). Reflection: Turning experience into learning. London: Kogan Page.

Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81-112.

Jeffs, C., & Piera, Y. “Focus on formative feedback for teaching development: A guide.” Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning Guide Series, No. 3. Calgary, AB: Taylor Institute for  Teaching and Learning at the University of Calgary, July 2016.

Nicol, D. J., & 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.

Shute, V. J. (2008). Focus on formative feedback. Review of Educational Research, 78(1), 153-189.

University of Calgary, The Taylor Institute’s Educational Development Unit Formative Feedback Resources

Vanderbilt University Soliciting and Utilizing Mid-Semester Feedback 

Wiggins, G. (2012). Feedback for learning: 7 keys to effective feedback. Journal of Educational Leadership, 7(1), 10-16.