Stories from
the trenches

Why don’t students use my feedback to improve their work?

U.S. instructor, CMU program overseas

I’ve always given my students a lot of written feedback on their work, especially in the first few weeks of class. My students in the U.S. appreciated this and generally showed improvement on subsequent assignments. I continued to provide extensive feedback when I began teaching abroad, but I realized after a few weeks that it wasn’t having the desired effect: students continued to make the same mistakes and struggle with the same problems I’d already commented on. At first, I thought they simply weren’t reading my feedback, but when I asked them if this was the case, they told me that they often didn’t understand my comments or know how to use my feedback to improve their work.

I decided then to take some time out of a class session and go through the comments on a few of the papers students had submitted (after getting the students’ approval, of course). I explained what I meant by each comment and showed them strategies and possible revisions that would have made the paper stronger. After doing this a few times, I found that almost all my students were better able to act on the feedback I provided.

Other strategies