Making Feedback Learner-Centered

This resource outlines guidelines and methods for providing effective, learner-centered feedback. These may be used by both online and on campus instructors.

“Nothing that we do to, or for, our students is more important than our assessment of their work and the feedback we give them on it. The results of our assessment influence our students for the rest of their lives and careers — fine if we get it right, but unthinkable if we get it wrong.”

(Race, Brown, & Smith, 2005, p. xi)

Learner-Centered Feedback

Feedback is the comments, questions, information, on how students are achieving our, instructors’, predetermined goals. Thus, feedback includes emoticons, facial expressions, language, tone, body language, gestures, and comments made during the learning process (Costello & Crane 2015).

Learner-centered learners exhibit characteristics of:

  1. understanding reason for learning content;
  2. self-awareness of learning abilities and knowledge acquisition;
  3. problem solving;
  4. retrieving and evaluating learning situations; and
  5. communicating their knowledge in real-world contexts (Blumberg, 2009).

Learner-centered feedback provides learners with guidance in evaluating their learning while supporting their learning commitments (Schmitt, Hu, & Bachrach, 2008) and perhaps providing remedial exercises (Hattie & Timperley, 2007). In this type of course a strong focus on learner input and needs is made. Learning experiences are mediated by the instructors through coaching learners and facilitating learner autonomy of learning and assessment (Schmitt, et al., 2008) in demonstrating content knowledge and respect for the learner (Mohr, 2010). This provides learning experiences that are relevant and motivating to learners and inspiring for instructors.

Assessment : Evaluation : Feedback

Let’s take a moment to differentiate between assessment, evaluation, and feedback. Many tend to interchange the terms assessment and evaluation, but they are different. Assessment is more about development and evaluation about performance. Evaluation involves making judgments about what students produced or accomplished in relation to the scope of the objectives. It relies on assessment to review progress. Feedback involves statements relating to the judgments made.

Feedback Models

Keep in mind that students in introductory courses require frequent feedback. There are a couple of models you could use to guide your feedback:

The Fidelity Model


Frequent, Immediate, and Discriminating (based on clear criteria and standards), and delivered Lovingly (Fink, 2003, p. 83).

The Smart Model


Specific, Meaningful, Applicable, Reflective, and Timely (Crane, 2010).

Regardless of which model used, it is important to provide students in introductory courses with frequent feedback.

Guidelines for Good Feedback

Good feedback should:

  • Clarify good performance based on goals, criteria, standards — for example,

    • “You did a good job with what you have done here. However, if you look at the rubrics 15% of your mark is for creating a diagram.”

  • Facilitate the development of self-assessment and reflection — for example,

    • “How can you create a diagram to support your argument?”

  • Deliver high-quality information to learners about their learning — for example,

    • “Refer to the handout on creating diagrams, you could start with a simple two column diagram to support your arguments.”

  • Encourage teacher and peer dialog around learning — for example,

    • “Let’s talk about how a diagram could help your paper.”

    • “You might want to share your paper with a classmate to see if they have suggestions for a diagram.”

  • Encourage positive motivational beliefs and self-esteem — for example,

    • “What you have done is very good. What would you do to improve it?”

  • Provide opportunities to close the gap between current and desired student performance — for example,

    • “I am willing to re-read your paper once you have added your missing diagram.”

      (Note: This may or may not mean a change in mark, It depends on the instructor’s philosophy.)

  • Provide teachers with information to inform teaching practice (Nichol, 2007) — for example,

    • “If many students did poorly with their diagrams, or omitted them completely this would indicate that students need more instruction and guidance on the type of diagram expected.”


  • Blumberg, P. (2009). Developing Learner-Centered Teaching: A Practical Guide for Faculty. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Costello, J., & Crane, D. (2015). Promoting Effective Feedback in Online Learning. In S. Keengwe (Ed.) Handbook of Research on Active learning and the Flipped Classroom Model in the Digital Age. IGI Global: Hershey, PA.
  • Crane, D. (2010). Feedback to enhance learning. Unpublished Manuscript, Centre for Distance Education, Athabasca University, Alberta, Canada.
  • Fink, L. D. (2003). Creating significant learning experiences., San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Hattie, J., & Timperely, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research March, 77(1), 81-112. D=doi: 10.3102/003465430298487
  • Mohr, D. (2010, July). Providing effective feedback in online courses for student learning. Sloan C Foundation Webinar. Retrieved from
  • Nichol, D. (2007). E-assessment by design: using multiple-choice tests to good effect. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 31(1), 53-64.
  • Race, P., Brown, S., & Smith, B (2005). 500 Tips on assessment. (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge Falmer.
  • Schmitt, E. M., Hu, A. C., & Bachrach, P. S. (2008). Course evaluation and assessment: Examples of a learner-centered approach. Gerontology & Geriatrics Education, 29(3), 290–300.
Resource created by Jane C. & Daph C.