Developing Feedback Literacy

We know that feedback needs to be timely and focused on information which can improve performance. However, to make the most of feedback, students need to learn how to interpret and respond to feedback. As part of their personal and professional development, they also need to learn how to constructively and respectfully seek and provide feedback. Colleagues in the School of Psychology share how they are supporting the development of students’ feedback literacy.

Feedback is regularly a point of dissatisfaction for students. ‘We spend a lot of time thinking about and writing feedback for students as we know how important it is’, says Professor Anna Chur-Hansen, ‘So it is discouraging when it isn’t acted upon’. Additionally, students are sometimes unaware of how they can benefit from a variety of feedback opportunities before assessments are graded, including discussing ideas with lecturers, tutors, or peers during class.

Courteous emails

Students are provided with guidance on being an active participant in feedback dialogue, including expectations for appropriate communication.

For feedback to be effective it needs to be an active and reciprocal process that facilitates reflection, enable students to act, and encourages positive motivational beliefs and self-esteem1. Anna established a working group with staff and students within the School of Psychology to see how they could improve student engagement with, and skills in giving, feedback. The group created resources for students which are now embedded in all MyUni courses in the School.

The materials encourage students to take an active role and include guidance on sources of feedback and feedback strategies such as appropriate communication.

‘We are aiming to develop students’ feedback literacy by creating an environment in which they will understand the purpose of and opportunities for feedback, as well as the strategies they can use to make the most of it’, explains Dr Rachel Stephens (Senior Lecturer, School of Psychology).

Whenever Rachel releases assessment results in a first year Psychology course, she includes information in the announcement reminding students to access the written and video resources with strategies for receiving and acting upon feedback.

Where & How Can I Receive Feedback?

Students with well-developed feedback literacy are aware of the varied sources they can draw on to access information which can improve their performance, especially before they submit assessments.

‘It is important that we acknowledge that it can be tough for students to see criticisms of their work, and then help them develop the skills to actively engage with this feedback’Rachel Stephens

For more practical strategies for feedback design and practice, access the Learning and Teaching website.


1Nicol, D.J. & Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2006). Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in Higher Education, 31(2):199-218.

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