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What is your study programme?
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The Library may have different opening hours on 18, 19 and 20 May. See uva.nl/studyspaceExternal link for up-to-date information.

How do you give effective and constructive feedback?

Last modified on 19-03-2024 12:33
As a student, you are faced with giving and receiving feedback at university in various ways.
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Feedback from lecturers is the most obvious form: the assessments and feedback that you receive for your performance and effort. In addition, students are often asked to give feedback, for example on the quality of education or on a fellow student’s assignment. However, how do you give effective and constructive feedback? 

Put yourself in the receiver’s shoes 

If you want the receiver of your feedback to truly benefit from it, then it’s crucial to give constructive and targeted feedback. This is certainly complex; giving feedback is a skill that you need to master.  

When giving feedback, you can always ask yourself the question: what kind of comments would be useful to you? Moreover, only give feedback that you would also like to receive yourself and put yourself in the position, therefore, of the lecturer or fellow student. To give an example: lecturers read an UvA Q report first, so describe your feedback as if you are talking to the lecturer instead of about a lecturer. 

Golden rules 

Filius (2019)External link describes the five golden rules for formulating balanced and useful feedback:  

  1. Be critical yet constructive. Name what could be improved, but also what went well. Positive feedback is just as effective as negative feedback.     
  2. Be clear and specific. Avoid using words like ‘always’ or ‘never’. A comment like ‘there was never any time to ask questions’ is much more difficult to process than ‘I would have liked it if there would have been time at the beginning of the tutorials to ask questions about the lecture. Another example: instead of describing that a fellow student never explains their arguments clearly, you can say: ‘I feel that your arguments are lacking substantiation, for example...’.  
  3. Be realistic. Focus on points that can actually be improved. Therefore, do not name the main theme of the course or the content of an assignment, but focus your feedback, for example, on specific articles or components. 
  4. Be aware of subjectivity. Evaluate on the basis of your own experiences and write in the first person (‘I’), because this concerns your opinion. Do not talk, for example, on behalf of your fellow students (‘we’) if it does not relate to a group evaluation. In addition, do not formulate comments as facts, but as your own opinion, for example: ‘I felt the assignment took too long, because... and..’ instead of ‘the assignment took too long because... and...’.  
  5. Focus on the behaviour or the material, and not on the person. Instead of ‘you can’t explain well’, it would be better to say: ‘there was often too little time for discussing articles, as result of which I didn’t feel like I could ask questions. Could you make sure there is more scope for this in the future?’ Or instead of ‘I think that you write unclearly’, you can specify ‘I think that the paragraphs are lacking an introductory topic sentence, as a result of which I don’t know what the subject of the paragraph is’.  

In 2017, Van Popta et al.External link described the following steps to adhere to when wording your feedback, whether this is orally or in writing:

  1. Opinion: describe your opinion specifically and concretely, using the first-person point of view. 
  2. Substantiation: put arguments forward to substantiate your opinion.  
  3. Suggestions: ask one or more questions or give suggestions for improvement.  
  4. Where applicable: refer to specific literature.