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Effective Teacher to Student Feedback
October 2019


What does the research say about strategies for providing effective formative feedback to students?

Ask A REL Response

Thank you for your request to our Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Reference Desk. Ask A REL is a collaborative reference desk service provided by the 10 RELs that, by design, functions much in the same way as a technical reference library. Ask A REL provides references, referrals, and brief responses in the form of citations in response to questions about available education research.

Following an established REL Northwest research protocol, we conducted a search for evidence- based research. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, Google Scholar, and general Internet search engines. For more details, please see the methods section at the end of this document.

The research team has not evaluated the quality of the references and resources provided in this response; we offer them only for your reference. The search included the most commonly used research databases and search engines to produce the references presented here. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The research references are not necessarily comprehensive and other relevant research references may exist. In addition to evidence-based, peer-reviewed research references, we have also included other resources that you may find useful. We provide only publicly available resources, unless there is a lack of such resources or an article is considered seminal in the topic area.


Afitska, O. (2014). Use of formative assessment, self- and peer-assessment in the classrooms: Some insights from recent Language Testing and Assessment (LTA) research. Journal on English Language Teaching, 4(1), 29–39.

From the Abstract:
"A considerable number of studies on formative teacher assessment and feedback, learner self- and peer-assessment have been carried out in the field of Language Testing and Assessment (LTA) research over the last two decades. These studies investigated the above mentioned concepts from different perspectives (impact of assessment on learning, attitudes towards assessment, comparison between teacher and learner assessment practices, types and quality of formative teacher feedback), in a number of different contexts (English as second language classrooms, mainstream classrooms, immersion classrooms, i.e. for mainstream classrooms, teaching and learning is done through the medium of a second or additional language) and in a number of different ways (experimental studies, observational studies, surveys, research review studies). This paper systematically reviews most the recent research on formative teacher assessment and feedback, learner self- and peer-assessment, and reveals the gaps which have not yet been addressed by the research."

Bellert, A. (2015). Effective re-teaching. Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties, 20(2), 163–183. Prepublication version retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"This review focuses on the topic of re-teaching within a formative cycle of instruction, in regular classroom settings. Although re-teaching is assumed integral to effective teaching, learning, and formative assessment, effective re-teaching is but scantly described in pedagogical literature and has been neglected in empirical research. Teachers and school systems seeking to improve student achievement, especially for lower-achieving students, would be well-served by more information and evidence about effective re-teaching. Accordingly, this review follows a defined and replicable protocol, using four questions to explore the extent and detail of existing information about re-teaching and use this information as the basis for suggestions of approaches and strategies for effective re-teaching. The importance of effective re-teaching for students with learning difficulties is emphasized and the potential benefits of effective re-teaching on academic self-concept and motivation for students, and on teacher effectiveness, are discussed. Collecting evidence from practice and the need to quantify the effectiveness of re-teaching are proposed as key aspects of future research and development."

Dann, R. (2014). Assessment as learning: Blurring the boundaries of assessment and learning for theory, policy and practice. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 21(2), 149–166. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"This paper explores assessment and learning in a way that blurs their boundaries. The notion of assessment as learning (AaL) is offered as an aspect of formative assessment (assessment for learning). It considers how pupils self-regulate their own learning, and in so doing make complex decisions about how they use feedback and engage with the learning priorities of the classroom. Discussion is framed from a sociocultural stance, yet challenges some of the perspectives that have widely become accepted. It offers three new views to help explore the concept of AaL: understanding feedback; understanding the learning gap; and exploring vocabularies of assessment. Pragmatically, the ideas examined suggest that teachers may need to consider less about focused and directive feedback, but more about how learners interpret and understand feedback from their self-regulatory and self-productive identities and how vocabularies for assessment can be more collaboratively shared in learning contexts."

Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81–112. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Feedback is one of the most powerful influences on learning and achievement, but this impact can be either positive or negative. Its power is frequently mentioned in articles about learning and teaching, but surprisingly few recent studies have systematically investigated its meaning. This article provides a conceptual analysis of feedback and reviews the evidence related to its impact on learning and achievement. This evidence shows that although feedback is among the major influences, the type of feedback and the way it is given can be differentially effective. A model of feedback is then proposed that identifies the particular properties and circumstances that make it effective, and some typically thorny issues are discussed, including the timing of feedback and the effects of positive and negative feedback. Finally, this analysis is used to suggest ways in which feedback can be used to enhance its effectiveness in classrooms."

Klute, M., Apthorp, H., Harlacher, J., & Reale, M. (2017). Formative assessment and elementary school student academic achievement: A review of the evidence (REL 2017-259). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Central.

From the Abstract:
"Formative assessment is a process that engages teachers and students in gathering and using information about what students are learning. This comprehensive and systematic review identifies 22 rigorous studies of the effectiveness of formative assessment interventions among elementary students. Results of the study indicate that, overall, formative assessment has a positive effect on student achievement. On average, across the studies, students who participated in formative assessment performed better on measures of academic achievement than those who did not. Formative assessment interventions in mathematics had larger effects, on average, than formative assessment interventions in reading or writing. Both student-directed formative assessment and formative assessment directed by other agents, such as a teacher or a computer program, appear to be effective for mathematics. Other-directed formative assessment interventions appear to be more effective for reading than student-directed formative assessment interventions."

Marrs, S., Zumbrunn, S., McBride, C., & Stringer, J. K. (2016). Exploring elementary student perceptions of writing feedback. Journal on Educational Psychology, 10(1), 16–28.

From the Abstract:
"The purpose of this descriptive qualitative investigation was to explore elementary students' (N = 867) perceptions of the feedback they receive on their writing. After responding to the closed-ended question, 'Do you like to receive feedback about your writing?' students were branched to the appropriate follow-up open-ended question, 'Why do/don't you like to receive feedback about your writing from your teacher?' The majority of students reported liking writing feedback and provided reasons related to mastery and positive affective responses to feedback. A sizeable number of students reported not liking feedback and provided reasons related to avoidance of receiving feedback and negative affective responses associated with feedback. Qualitative findings highlight the range of both positive and negative views about writing feedback, as well as the power of listening to student voices."

Shute, V. J. (2007). Focus on formative feedback (ETS Research Report No. RR-07-11). Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.

From the Abstract:
"This paper reviews the corpus of research on feedback, with a particular focus on formative feedback--defined as information communicated to the learner that is intended to modify the learner's thinking or behavior for the purpose of improving learning. According to researchers in the area, formative feedback should be multidimensional, nonevaluative, supportive, timely, specific, credible, infrequent, and genuine (e.g., Brophy, 1981; Schwartz & White, 2000). Formative feedback is usually presented as information to a learner in response to some action on the learner's part. It comes in a variety of types (e.g., verification of response accuracy, explanation of the correct answer, hints, worked examples) and can be administered at various times during the learning process (e.g., immediately following an answer, after some period of time has elapsed). Finally, there are a number of variables that have been shown to interact with formative feedback's success at promoting learning (e.g., individual characteristics of the learner and aspects of the task). All of these issues will be discussed in this paper. This review concludes with a set of guidelines for generating formative feedback."

van den Bergh, L., Ros, A., & Beijaard, D. (2013). Feedback during active learning: Elementary school teachers' beliefs and perceived problems. Educational Studies, 39(4), 418–430. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Giving feedback during active learning is an important, though difficult, task for teachers. In the present study, the problems elementary school teachers perceive and the beliefs they hold regarding this task were investigated. It appeared that teachers believe conditional teacher skills, especially time management, hinder them most from giving good feedback. The most widely held belief was that "feedback should be positive". Teachers also believed that it is important to adopt a facilitative way of giving feedback, but they found this difficult to implement. Only some teachers believed goal-directedness and a focus on student meta-cognition were important during active learning and teachers did not perceive problems regarding these aspects. It was discussed whether teachers' feedback behavior was in line with these perceived problems and beliefs. The results give directions for the professional development of teachers to improve their feedback during active learning."


Keywords and Search Strings: The following keywords, subject headings, and search strings were used to search reference databases and other sources: Student Feedback, Formative Assessment, Time OR Time Management, Reteach

Databases and Resources: We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and EBSCO databases (Academic Search Premier, Education Research Complete, and Professional Development Collection).

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

Date of publications: This search and review included references and resources published in the last 10 years.

Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority was given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, as well as academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, and Google Scholar.

Methodology: The following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references:

  • Study types: randomized control trials, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, and policy briefs, generally in this order
  • Target population and samples: representativeness of the target population, sample size, and whether participants volunteered or were randomly selected
  • Study duration
  • Limitations and generalizability of the findings and conclusions

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by stakeholders in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northwest. It was prepared under Contract ED-IES-17-C-0009 by REL Northwest, administered by Education Northwest. The content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.