Feedback focuses on a student’s current performance while feedforward looks ahead to how students can improve both current and subsequent assessments. Feedforward is more effective if it is provided at a time when meaningful action can be taken. Both are fundamental to embedding Assessment for Learning effectively within units and courses.

Common challenges with feedback

Common challenges with feedback reported by students and staff include:

  • Students report that they don’t understand the feedback on their work and how to translate this into action.
  • Students want more and/or more individualised feedback.
  • Staff report that students don’t engage with feedback opportunities (e.g. formative assessment or office hours).
  • Staff report that their ability to provide greater quantity and/or quality of feedback is unsustainable.
  • Feedback is associated with comments on summative assessment and with justifying a summative mark, rather than improving learning.
  • Feedback on an end of unit assessment comes too late and can seem unrelated to future study or work.
  • Feedback comments are not specific (e.g. ‘needs work’, ‘unclear’) or focus largely on negative comments.

The guidance on this provides practical approaches to developing effective feedback practice that address the challenges above.

Effective feedback and feedforward practice

The areas below build on research and good practice in assessment and feedback. Together they support students to better understand their assessment tasks and feedback they receive, to engage with feedback opportunities, and to act on this feedback to improve their future performance.


In order for students to engage fully in their assessment, they need to understand what they are being asked to do, by when, what key ideas or tasks they need to learn or undertake, and how any formative assessments might feed into the summative assessment.


Supporting students to take an active role in the feedback process will help equip them to become self-regulating, independent learners.


Students who understand and are engaged with the assessment and feedback process are well equipped to put this into practice to improve their learning and performance.

Further ways to embed effective feedback practice

Recent analysis of NSS feedback across institutions has revealed that many of students’ perceived shortcomings of assessment and feedback could be overcome through better communication between staff and students. The following are suggestions for ways to support your students' understanding of the feedback process and their role in it.

Further information

Find out more about Assessment for Learning and how to embed it within your unit or course.

Read about how you can support shared understanding and expectations by developing staff and student feedback literacy.

Read further guidance and practical suggestions for developing and sharing clear marking criteria with your students [forthcoming].

Updated on: 01 September 2022