• 15 December 2018
How to Give Students Effective Feedback

How to Give Students Effective Feedback

Jul 15, 2018

Giving effective feedback is an essential part of the service that tutors provide students, in shaping their expectations and sense of their own abilities, as well as the progress they’ve made and, with further refinement, can make through the tutoring sessions.

An effective learning strategy needs to incorporate feedback that your students can understand and use to grow and meet their academic goals. After all, the learning process is somewhat like a dialogue: students take an exam or submit their work, tutors evaluate how well students performed, and students receive effective feedback – clear and actionable information about how they did and how they can improve.

Feedback is a tailored process – what and how you deliver depends on your working relationship with your student and their particular needs and circumstances. But the fundamentals of feedback ought to remain consistent across the board:

1. Student-centered feedback

Feedback should be clear, timely, and constructive. It should reference your student’s learning goals and the specific skills or knowledge that they’re developing, and provide actionable steps for students to improve.

2. Face-to-face

Unlike their classroom counterparts, tutors most often are working one-on-one with their students. This affords a powerful opportunity to provide your students with detailed, personalized feedback. Even if you’ve marked up a practice exam or assignment, make the time to discuss your feedback face-to-face with your student. Remember, feedback is a dialogue – and by talking through your feedback during your tutoring session, you’ll utilize that sense of trust and partnership with your student.

3. Lead with the Good

When providing feedback about an exam or assignment, start with pointing out where your student got it right. If your student understood one concept particularly well, or demonstrated aptitude in a particular skill or area of knowledge, highlight the positive to reinforce your student’s picture of their present abilities.

This growth-minded approach encourages a question of “How do I improve from here?” rather than doubting one’s ability to tackle the material and overcome learning difficulties.

4. Ask questions, too

Feedback should include constructive questions that target your student’s specific learning needs. Instead of simply marking up a student’s work to show where they need improvement, include questions that help guide the student along.

5. Self-directed Feedback

Questions are also a fantastic means of encouraging students to self-reflect and develop highly useful metacognitive skills: “What did I understand?” “What did I struggle with?” “What tools can I use to do better next time?” By building students’ capacity to interrogate their own learning process, students can feel a greater sense of ownership of their goals and accomplishments.

6. Remember students’ non-academic needs

The learning process goes beyond the academics to encompass students’ social and emotional strengths as well. A student may face stumbling blocks emotionally if they don’t feel comfortable assessing their own learning process. Recognizing and supporting your students’ social and emotional learning, therefore, plays an important role in providing effective, holistic feedback.

Help your student express specific frustrations or difficulties in the learning process. Go beyond “what didn’t I understand?” to “How does this task challenge me?” Paying attention to these critical non-academic needs reminds your students that there are equally or more important aspects of the learning process beyond marks.

7. Expand the feedback network

If you’re working with younger students, remember to provide timely and informative feedback to parents and, where applicable, others within the students’ networks of influence – including school teachers. Give parents a clear idea of how their children are doing, where they’re working to improve, and what goals they’ve set to achieve with your help.

Lastly, open yourself up to receive constructive feedback from your student and parents. We can nurture trust and self-reflection in our students by demonstrating our own willingness to grow.


Effective feedback is essential to providing your students with a concrete idea of their progress and potential. Develop your feedback process to ensure your students are receiving what they need to sharpen their skills and build their own awareness of what’s needed to achieve success.