Imagine that one of your assignments is to have students write a short essay on the history of ice cream! When you are giving feedback on this assignment, try these tips:

Frame – offer corrections in terms of what is needed for the assignment to be better.
“You need to expand on the link between ice cream and dairy farming.”
Be specific – tell students about is needed to improve.
“Give me five examples of desserts that incorporate ice cream.”
Offers suggestions –invite students to pursue ideas.
“I would like to see you explore international ice cream making techniques”.
Ask questions – questions can steer students in the right direction.
“Why didn’t you include the influence of culture?”

A quick reminder about this Guide’s definition of the differences between evaluation and feedback:

Evaluation is one type of feedback, but feedback doesn’t have to be evaluation.

The tools below have been divided according to that understanding, but many could be adapted for either evaluation or feedback.







Feedback tools

Informal peer feedback – teaches students how to give and receive feedback and develop their own self-assessment skills. Peer feedback can be very effective if the process is well-structured. Rubrics are a great tool to show students what to look for.

Heads-up common errors – before a major assignment, the teacher provides the students with a summary of common errors occurring most often in the course assignment, and provides general resources or strategies students can use to avoid making the same errors.

Large class structured – uses a structured tool to provide written feedback to the large class. The tool is similar to a rubric – it summarizes the common errors found in a particular assignment and highlights where students generally did well.

Checklists – help students to assess their own assignments before handing them in.

Two-way street boxes – students drop a brief note in two different boxes as they leave class. The blue box is for comments on what the student learned in the class and the yellow one is for what the student didn’t quite get in the class. The teacher summarizes the feedback and presents it back at the beginning of the next class. This allows students to see if they “got it” or if they are alone in struggling with a particular concept and gives teachers an opportunity to provide clarification.

Elluminate – is a tool that can be used to give real time feedback in online courses.

In-class group work - provides opportunity for teachers to circulate and provide feedback during the activity.

Immediate feedback –offers immediate feedback without the actual presence of the teacher. When technology is available in a course, students can submit assignments and receive an immediate automatic message back from the teacher saying that if their assignment includes certain specific aspects, then they are on the right track. This provides immediate feedback for students to either confirm that they are on track, or offers feedback that they have been less successful and may require more assistance.

Evaluation tools

Course design – provides an important opportunity to decide on evaluation approaches, including:

Multiple evaluations – the greater the number of different types of assessments– for example, quizzes, presentations, papers – the more information they will have about their progress in the course, and the more chance to improve.

Diverse formats – offering students a variety of formats – for example, video, poster, class presentation –to submit assignments gives them opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge in different ways. And it can make the marking process more interesting for the teacher.

Rubrics - make your expectations and marking scheme clear, offer samples of what is expected, and provide a structure for marking and making comments. Rubrics also demonstrate the transparency in your expectations. There are different kinds of rubrics for different purposes. You’ll find a range of suggestions in the online version of this Guide.

Exemplars – present a model of what is expected of student work. The Heads of Language in the Ontario Colleges have developed guidelines and examples of exemplars for writing. Exemplars can be developed for any subject including clinical or field education courses.

One-page student assignment - develop assignments that require a lot of “behind the scenes” work, but culminate in a one page summary. Higher stakes assignments should take more student time but don’t necessarily require pages and pages of documentation. This cuts down on the amount of reading required by the teacher, but still provides in depth research and summary opportunities for students.

Grade tracking mechanisms– help students see where they stand in the course at any time. Mechanisms include Blackboard software or a spread sheet system. The spread sheet system also can automatically generate a personal letter to every student.

Commentary feedback - decreases the need to keep repeating comments on individual assignments since teachers often give the same feedback to many students. A commentary feedback form based on a rubric includes standard comments and suggestions for improvement. You just check the boxes that are relevant to each student.

Joint assignments - for large classes, a joint assignment between two courses makes the marking tasks more manageable. Work with a colleague to create a joint assignment that includes curriculum for both your courses. The students write one paper – a bonus for them – and you and your colleague each have to only mark ‘half’ of it.

Formal peer feedback – builds a required peer feedback component into assignments. Students submit the first version to a peer who marks the paper using the rubric. The student then submits a revised paper, along with the peer’s feedback, for final grading by the teacher.

Staged marking – assignments are divided into stages, so that students hand in parts of the assignment over the semester – for example, 1. General outline, 2. Thesis statement and key points, 3. Draft essay, 4. Final paper. Each stage is marked, giving students immediate ‘right track’ feedback. This technique spreads the marking out over the semester and usually results in a better final product.







Web-based Tutorials on Assessment and Feedback:

Assessing Teaching and Learning –This is module 6 of "Getting Results - A Professional Development Course for Community College Educators," a multi-media resource produced by WGBH Educational Foundation. The learning outcome is to "be able to create assessments that focus on intended outcomes and your own teaching." The other modules may also be of interest: 1. Creating a Community of Learners; 2. Planning for Outcomes; 3. Active Teaching and Learning; 4. Moving Beyond the Classroom; and 5. Teaching with Technology. The module may take a few hours to complete, so make sure you leave yourself time.  Using this module with colleagues might also prove to be a great PD opportunity for your team.

Assessment, Evaluation and Curriculum Redesign – This is one of several online workshops in the series Concept to Classroom produced by New York Public Media/Educational Broadcasting Corporation. Intended for an audience of K-12 educators, the information and examples are also relevant at the post-secondary level. The workshop synopsis states: "How do you know how students are learning? ... How does an educator know that a strategy is effective?”  Alternative avenues of assessing student work, such as digital portfolios and performance-based tests are included.

Appropriate Assessment– This is the 22nd module in a 25 module multimedia teacher education program called Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future, developed for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization for instructors wanting to integrate sustainable development into their curriculum.  While some of the language differs, i.e. GBC's use of feedback and evaluation vs. formative and summative assessment, this site has a wealth of ideas for teaching and learning strategies.




Online Resources:

 The Centre for Teaching and Learning at Ontario’s Georgian College This site provides many helpful links on teaching methods and evaluation.

The Aligning and Building Curriculum (ABC) site of Ontario's Eastern Region Curriculum Development Program offers a comprehensive site.  Lots of general curriculum information with a specific section on assessment.

College Diploma and Certificate College Standards This is the link to the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities published program standards. Giving students feedback should lead them to the demonstration of one or more of the course outcomes, which ultimately should lead to one or more program standards or essential employability skills.

Ontario Colleges Heads of Language Exemplars This guide includes sample annotated exemplars.  The reviewer's notes provide detailed explanations and comments to demonstrate why rating levels were assigned to the Research Essay and Short Report exemplars.

 9 Principles of Good Practice for Assessing Student Learning – This resource from the American Association for Higher Education - Assessment Forum and these useful resources and tips from Honolulu Community College provide a range of ideas to consider and try.
Bloom`s Taxonomy of Learning Domains– This resource gives examples and keywords from each of the cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains, compiled by Don Clark,  learning consultant with Knowledge Jump. Keywords are useful in drafting learning outcomes and rubrics.

Assessment ­– There are two teaching guides on this topic available on the Vanderbilt University’s Centre for Teaching website. The site focuses on Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) that would be in line with the GBC nomenclature of feedback (vs. evaluation).

Assessment: tests, quizzes, questioning – One of a series of Master Teacher Initiative Teaching Tips developed by the Institute for Learning and Teaching at Colorado State University. Other topics include classroom behaviour, discussion strategies, diversity, lesson planning, lecture tips, and teaching strategies.

Integrating Writing into Your Course – This resource is part of the University of Wisconsin’s "Writing across the Curriculum" initiative. There are examples on a number of topics, including: designing effective assignments, responding, evaluating, grading and teaching oral communication skills.

Process: Creating rubrics The Centre for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition at the University of Minnesota illustrates a few common, frequently recommended features of rubrics.



Software Tools for Giving Feedback:

Creating a Rubric for a Given Task  - – This site provides a simple rubric template and step-by-step instructions for putting it together.  Examples of the possible dimensions you might consider in assessing various elements of a task are provided (e.g. if there is an oral presentation component to an assessment, consider providing feedback on voice projection, body language, grammar and pronunciation, organization).

Recording Feedback as a Podcast Uploaded to WebCT  – A short step-by-step video describing how simple it is for a School of Nursing Professor to use Audacity, the free audio recorder, to record oral feedback on the students’ practical lab techniques as they practice a mock nursing exam. She then very easily uploads her feedback onto WebCT for her students to access after class; 2 of whom comment on its usability.

Giving audio-visual feedback on student papers– Why write comments on papers anymore? Two professors outline how they use the free software desktop video tool Jing, to comment directly on students’ papers by recording their feedback and uploading it as a video. Students then receive their papers embedded with a url that opens to your voice giving feedback.

iRubric– iRubric is a free comprehensive rubric development, assessment and collaboration tool.

Rubistar – Registered users can save and edit rubrics online. Registration and use of the tool are free.

Elluminate– This tool can be used to give ‘real time’ feedback in online courses.




Multiple Choice Assessment Tools

Spicing up multiple choice testing  – An excellent how-to article that will inspire teachers to use multiple choice tests in both formative and summative assessment. The professor details how motivated and engaged students become in participating more fully in their own learning.

In the lab A 2 minute video that shows a lab setting for formative & summative multiple choice assessment. Highlights, “assessment as a learning process” as professors and students collaborate on reinforcing their learning.

Assessing Fieldwork

Explains the techniques used by one program to assess fieldwork using a “field notebook” where students keep a notebook in which they complete a number of tasks, including articulating and reflecting on theory and practice. University of Nottingham, School of Archaeology

For ESL Students

Issues of cultural sensitivity when giving feedback are explored. 

Assessing large classes

Tips from the Australian Centre for Higher Education to ensure you are using effective group management processes; establishing clear assessment guidelines and employing valid and fair grading processes.


Special thanks to Anne van de Velde and Camilla Wheeler for their help with this section.






The information contained in the guide is based on a review of the literature and interviews with selected students and teachers at George Brown College. Individuals interviewed included teachers in a variety of program areas, teachers with some of the highest student satisfaction ratings, students of teachers with some of the highest student satisfaction ratings, a representative of the George Brown College Student Association and faculty with expertise in the area of teaching excellence.

These booklets are a joint initiative of the Office of Academic Excellence and the Teaching and Learning Working Group of the 2008–11 Academic Strategy.

Please send your ideas or suggestions to the Office of Academic Excellence:


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