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Thirteen Strategies to Increase the Impact of Assignment Feedback

By Jean Mandernach, Helen Hammond / March 2024

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Research has clearly established the value and impact of assignment feedback for enhancing student learning. The verification and elaboration provided through assignment feedback simultaneously corrects students’ conceptual errors, affirms understanding, and provides instructional guidance. But the impact of feedback goes beyond cognitive and learning outcomes. Assignment feedback has the potential to engage and motivate students while connecting them to course content and the instructor. Recognizing that feedback is often the main source of individualized contact between a student and their instructor, feedback has the potential to shape students’ belief in their academic self-efficacy and confidence. The following 13 strategies offer guidance for providing effective and efficient holistic feedback that impacts learning in a manner that engages students and motivates academic success: 

1. Provide feedforward guidance. Feedforward guidance provides resources, guidance, and information in advance of assignment submission to prevent common student errors. As a result, summative feedback can be streamlined and targeted to the specific needs of each learner [1]. Feedforward guidance may include clarification of assignment expectations, tips and suggestions for success, common pitfalls or errors, and support resources. Feedforward guidance can be text, video, or screencast.

2. Utilize one-to-many feedback techniques. Rather than relying exclusively on one-to-one assignment feedback, you can create generalized feedback for the entire class at the conclusion of each assignment [2, 3]. One-to-many feedback (in either written or video form) provides an overview of general strengths, common concerns, resources for improvement, and instructional clarification. In contrast to private one-to-one feedback, one-to-many feedback allows for informal social comparison, and reflection on personal strengths and weaknesses, and ensures equal access to essential instructional resources.

3. Integrate peer-to-peer feedback opportunities. Integrate opportunities for peer-to-peer feedback as a component of the assignment process [4]. For example, instructors can create a guided rubric or checklist for students to use as they review a peer’s assignment; the completed rubric/checklist can be returned to the original learner along with the peer feedback for the learner to make corrections prior to submitting it to the instructor. Not only does this help to correct errors prior to submission, but peer feedback provides feedback using language that students can easily understand and fosters a peer support network. Plus, as an added benefit, the process of providing peer feedback increases self-reflection and learners’ awareness of their own learning processes as well as focusing learners’ attention on the key dimensions of an assignment.

4. Create multimedia feedback. The sheer volume of written information in an online course can be tedious (and overwhelming) for learners. As such, instructors can increase attention and focus on feedback by integrating multimedia alternatives to text-based feedback [5]. Not only does the novelty of a different format pique interest, but video, audio, or screencast feedback can target a range of learning styles, preferences, and strategies. Further, the multimedia format can trigger more active processing of feedback information [6].

5. Create feedback banks. Many faculty find the use of feedback banks to be beneficial in providing high-quality feedback that provides detail and depth to what the instructor was looking for in the assignment itself, without having to re-write common feedback each time it is needed [7]. A feedback bank is simply a document in which common feedback statements are saved for reuse when relevant. Instructors can invest time in the creation of high-quality feedback comments (including corrective information and resources) with the knowledge that this time investment will be recouped when used across multiple student assignments. Using feedback banks to provide common feedback comments also frees up additional time for the instructor to offer more detailed, personalized feedback as it applies to individual students.

6. Automate repetitive feedback tasks. Faculty can enhance the efficiency of using feedback banks by automating the integration of saved comments using text expander programs (i.e., TypeItIn, PhraseExpress, TextExpander, etc.). Text expander programs allow instructors to associate specific feedback comments with assigned hotkeys. Then, when grading assignments, instructors can quickly type in the assigned hotkey as a shortcut to insert the longer, more detailed feedback comment [8]. By speeding up the use of feedback bank comments, instructors can utilize the saved time to invest in the more nuanced, individual aspects of feedback that are unique to each student.

7. Integrate formative classroom assessment techniques. One of the challenges in motivating students to utilize feedback is that by the time they receive summative feedback on an assignment, course activities have moved to new topics and concepts. To ensure that students are utilizing feedback in a meaningful way, instructors should incorporate formative classroom assessment techniques (CATS) [9]. CATS (such as muddiest point, minute paper, concept check, etc.) allow instructors a quick, low-stakes opportunity for students to share their current level of understanding and create an avenue for providing corrective feedback prior to larger assessments.

8. Supplement assignment directions and feedback with rubrics. Rubrics provide a bridge between assignment expectations and assignment scores [3]. Providing the grading rubric to students as a component of the assignment directions helps to focus student time and attention on key expectations of the assignment. Then providing the graded rubric back to the student at the completion of grading connects feedback (strengths and areas for improvement) to the learning objectives. Not only does this help to ensure that students are focusing on the learning objectives, but it can also help guide the instructor on the most important areas for feedback.

9. Provide assignment exemplars. When students are demonstrating their knowledge in an assignment, there are two simultaneous cognitive tasks: (1) showcasing understanding; and (2) formatting their submission within the parameters of the assignment expectations. Providing assignment exemplars helps students to understand how to format their assignments so that the bulk of their cognitive energy can be invested in showcasing their understanding. The use of assignment exemplars reduces student errors related to structure and formatting so that feedback can be focused on correcting and confirming conceptual understanding [7].

10. Utilize generative artificial intelligence (AI). Instructors (or students) can utilize generative AI (such as ChatGPT) to provide pre-submission feedback to improve the quality of their writing. For example, assignment submissions can be uploaded to ChatGPT with a request to “provide writing suggestions” or “provide feedback on the organization of writing.” Students can then utilize the feedback provided by ChatGPT to revise their assignments prior to submitting them for grading. Alternatively, ChatGPT can provide summaries or outlines of assignment submissions that the students can review to check if they were able to convey their key points. Depending on the nature and purpose of the assignment, the requests from ChatGPT can be tailored to provide formative guidance on anything from grammar to conceptual understanding to gaps in logic.

11. Be proactive with notifications. One of the challenges in providing feedback in the online environment is that students may or may not realize that assignment feedback has been posted [10]. As such, a quick and easy strategy for fostering students’ use of feedback is to be proactive in notifying students that feedback is available. This may be as easy as posting an announcement letting students know that grading is complete or, if it is an introductory course, you may want to create a screencast showing students how to access their feedback. The reality is that students cannot benefit from feedback that they do not see, so instructors should guide their attention when new feedback is available [11].

12. Integrate automated mastery learning opportunities. Students are motivated to utilize feedback when they are engaged in the active process of learning and mastering new information. To foster this type of active learning, instructors can integrate automated mastery learning opportunities into their courses that are programmed with corrective feedback. For example, testbanks (publisher or instructor-generated) can be loaded into the learning management system to create auto-graded quizzes with item-specific feedback. The quiz settings can be structured to randomly select a set number of questions on each quiz attempt with students being allowed to complete the quiz as many times as they like prior to the due date (with only the highest score being recorded for a grade). In this context, each quiz attempt generates a new set of questions allowing the quiz (with associated preprogrammed feedback) to be a formative learning activity for students.

13. Provide checklists to foster self-feedback. As a component of the assignment, students can be provided a checklist of key points that serve as a guide for providing their own review and feedback [12]. In this context, not only do students submit their final assignment product, but they also submit their initial draft, their checklist with reflective self-feedback, and the final revised draft. Instructors can then provide feedback on students’ reflective process and corrections as well as the final assignment submission.

Students desire feedback that is valuable, instant, and personalized. When instructors utilize a holistic approach to feedback, they can increase the power of assignment feedback to foster satisfaction, engagement, and learning outcomes. Feedback provides an impetus for motivation (regardless of performance) and, as such, assignment feedback serves a uniquely valuable role in the online classroom. Not only does it guide students to further engage in content mastery, but it simultaneously fosters more meaningful interpersonal connections between the instructor and student. Recognizing that there is both a cognitive and an affective component to the student learning experience, creating a holistic approach to feedback may be one of the most important aspects of the online learning experience.


[1] Mandernach, B. J. Strategies to maximize the impact of feedback and streamline your time. Journal of Educators Online 15, 3 (2018).

[2] Goldsmith, L. Digital feedback: An integral part of the online classroom. Distance Learning 11, 2 (2014), 33–40.

[3] Gruenbaum, E. How to provide fair and effective feedback in asynchronous courses: 3 best practices for online teachers. eLearn Magazine 2010, 4 (April 2010).

[4] Mulyati, Y. and Hadianto, D. Enhancing argumentative writing via online peer feedback-based essay: A quasi-experiment studyInternational Journal of Instruction 16, 2 (2023), 195–212.

[5] Dias, L.P. and Trumpy, R. Online instructor’s use of audio feedback to increase social presence and student satisfaction. Journal of Educators Online 11, 2 (2014), 1–19.

[6] Waltemeyer, S. and Cranmore, J. Screencasting technology to increase engagement in online higher education courses. eLearn Magazine 2018, 12 (Dec. 2018).

[7] Mandernach, B. J. Teaching take-out: Web 2.0. Rocky Mountain Psychology Association, Denver, 2010.

[8] Moore, H. Optimizing feedback delivery with text-expanders. eLearn Magazine 2018, 12 (Dec. 2018).

[9] Angelo, T.A. and Cross, K.P. Classroom Assessment Techniques: A handbook for college teachers (2nd ed). Jossey-Bass, 1993.

[10] Leibold, N. and Schwarz, L. M. The art of giving online feedback. The Journal of Effective Teaching, 15, 1 (2015), 34-46.

[11] Mandernach, B. J. Quality feedback in less time. Online Classroom 13, 6 (2013), 1, 7.

[12] Mandernach, B. J. Efficient and effective feedback in the online classroom. A Magna Publications White Paper (Ed. J. Garrett). Magna Publications, Inc., Madison, WI, 2014.

About the Authors

Jean Mandernach, Ph.D. is executive director of the Center for Innovation in Research on Teaching at Grand Canyon University. Her research focuses on enhancing student learning experiences in the online classroom through innovative instructional and assessment strategies. She explores strategies for integrating efficient online instruction in a manner that maximizes student learning, satisfaction, and engagement. In addition, she has interests in innovative faculty development and evaluation models, teaching and learning analytics, emergent instructional technology, and faculty workload considerations. Mandernach is an active researcher, author, presenter, and consultant in the field of online education.

Helen G. Hammond, Ph.D., is a senior program manager and assistant professor in the Center for Innovation in Research on Teaching at Grand Canyon University. In addition to mentoring faculty and staff in SOTL research initiatives, she teaches undergraduate and graduate business courses including management, organizational behavior, servant leadership, marketing, and leadership in organizations. Dr. Hammond holds a Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology. Her research interests include servant leadership, management, teaching and learning, and online teaching best practices. 

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