Design in your course student feedback

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Plus-one – Design in your course student feedback

Written by JJ Cloutier
Edited by Debra Sinkarsin

Student feedback will be rolling in for many instructors, with courses or programs wrapped up in December. For some, this brings them dread.

Sourcing the idea

Earlier this year, I followed a social media discussion on what to do about student feedback. In the discussion, many instructors think students need to provide effective feedback.  Some instructors choose to ignore the feedback. Only to pull good comments for promotions and tenure documentation. They rely on informal feedback to determine if their class is succeeding.

A second group focused on their emotional response to ineffective feedback. The instructor who started the discussion was part of the second group. They are a successful, published, and tenured professor from the United States. They teach and research social and behavioural studies. They care about their student’s success. They work towards improving their teaching through improved pedagogy. Yet they could not see the opportunities to improve the situation.

I asked the instructor if they taught their students:

  • how to give good feedback and
  • the value of giving quality feedback to the instructors teaching quality

No, they had not included this, but they did teach about effective peer feedback. In the next session, they will teach effective feedback for the instructor’s use. We both hoped that they would see if it improved the students’ feedback.

According to Svinicki (2001), a student’s lack of understanding or practice in giving effective feedback is one of the leading causes of poor-quality student feedback. Essentially, if you do not teach students to give good feedback, they will not intuitively give good feedback. So, it seemed odd that this committed and conscientious instructor had missed the concept of teaching to give the instructor feedback.

In reviewing course design resources for more information on feedback, I noticed the absence of incorporating student feedback into the course design.

Let this blog post be your encouragement to include it in your course design.

Feedback design

I think about and categorize feedback as “from,” “to” and “on” based on who is providing the feedback and what the feedback concerns. The three main categories of feedback instructors can, and I would say, should design into their courses are:

  • Feedback from instructors to students on activities and assessments
  • Feedback from student peer to student peer on activities and assessments
  • Feedback from students to instructors on the course and teaching

Feedback to students by instructors is the subject of many feedback resources I have encountered in my research. If you are looking for a well-done summary of components, strategies, and types and examples of feedback, the University of Manitoba’s The Centre for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning’s Providing Feedback is a great resource.

I should also mention that the two feedback resources from MB Hub on providing feedback to students are very practical and guide both novice and experienced instructors in the practice of giving feedback.

Therefore, when the MB Hub recently updated an older blog post on student feedback to a resource page, we added materials to the resource to round it out better, including:

  • A “How to encourage students to give quality feedback” section.
  • More examples of the approaches you can take to gather feedback.
  • A “Receiving feedback effectively” section.

Please check out the updated: Promote student feedback in synchronous online and blended course design

Right now, MB Hub does not have a resource page for peer reviews. So as to not leave you hanging, I suggest you review Using Student Peer Review in Any Class from the Centre for Teaching Excellence at the University of Waterloo. Some institutions have peer assessment platforms, like Kritik or Peerceptive, to aid in this process, but you should be able to find solutions without specific platforms to allow you do peer to peer reviews.

Feedback literacy

I am still unsure why designing student feedback is not clearly stated in course design materials. I feel the relative newness of feedback literacy might be an explanation for why building different categories of feedback has not been explicitly discussed in course design. Feedback literacy is an emerging concept in higher education, and both peer-to-peer and student feedback are connected to feedback literacy.    

Note: Quality Matters touches on feedback in both specific review standards 3.5 (giving timely feedback) and 5.3 (interaction with students), but the focus is on the design for feedback to students.

Your plus-one – design it in!

To encourage better feedback from your students (and potentially less dread during course review time), build student feedback into your course design. Allow the 7 minutes for feedback and discussion in a module to ensure you know if they are comprehending the content. Set time aside to explain how you want to improve and how you use feedback in your design course. Consider changing your course’s feedback methods from module to module and keep students engaged.

Like a grocery list with missing items, if getting good feedback from students on your teaching is not designed into the course, it is not going to come home with you.


Standards from the Quality Matters Higher Education Rubric, Seventh Edition. Quality Matters. Retrieved from Specific Review Standards from the QM Higher Education Rubric, Seventh Edition [JC2] 

Svinicki M.D. (2001) Encouraging Your Students to Give Feedback. Special Issue: Techniques and Strategies for Interpreting Student Evaluations. Autumn 2001 (87), 17-24.


Providing feedback to students from The Centre for Advancement of Teaching and Learning, University of Manitoba. URL:

Using Student Peer Review in Any Class from The Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo. URL

Feedback literacy: a critical review of an emerging concept. From Nieminen, J.H., Carless, D.  in Higher Education journal.

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