Student Perceptions of Writing Feedback

What Students Say About Instructor Feedback was a 2013 study that examined student perceptions of instructor feedback using the platform. Students wanted timely feedback, but rarely received it: 28 percent of respondents reported that their instructors took 13+ days to provide feedback on their papers. Students preferred feedback about grammar, mechanics, composition, and structure. Students found feedback on thesis development valuable. Despite high rates of electronic submission, students did not report receiving electronic feedback at nearly the same rate.

QuickMark Categories

From The Margins analyzed nearly 30 million marks left on student papers submitted to the’s service between January 2010 and May 2012. QuickMark comments are a preloaded set of 76 comments covering 4 categories that instructors can drag- and-drop onto students’ papers within the Turnitin online grading platform.

This study looked specifically at frequencies and trends teachers employed when providing margin comments. The top 15 are listed below.

Top 10 QuickMarks

This 2014 follow-up study discovered that students found face-to-face feedback “very” or “extremely effective.” 77 percent of students viewed face-to-face comments as “very” or “extremely effective,” but only 30 percent received face-to-face “very” or “extremely often.”

Students perceived general comments on their writing to be “very” or “extremely effective.” However, a smaller percentage of educators felt the same. Even though 68 percent of students reported receiving general comments “very” or “extremely often,” and 67 percent of students said this feedback type was “very” or “extremely effective,” only one-third of educators viewed general comments as “very” or “extremely effective.”

Students preferred “suggestions for improvement” over “praise or discouragement.” The greatest percentage of students found suggestions for improvement “very” or “extremely effective,” while the fewest percentage of students said the same for “praise or discouragement.”

Students and educators differed on what constituted effective feedback.  The gap between educators and students was greater than 15 percent on the majority of areas examined. The biggest difference between educator and student responses occurred with “general, overall comments about the paper” and “specific notes written in the margins.”


Comments recorded by voice or audio may be a time-saving substitute for face-to-face feedback. Only five percent of student respondents reported receiving voice or video comments at the same frequency as that reported by students who report receiving face-to-face feedback “very” or “extremely often” (30 percent). As a way to negotiate time pressures and still be able to provide more personalized feedback, educators might consider leveraging the use of recorded voice or audio comments to provide feedback on student work. Many grading platforms and learning management systems (LMS) offer this feature as part of their services.

This study identified a clear relationship between exposure to feedback and perceived effectiveness of feedback. Thus, it is imperative to provide students with different types of feedback, and evaluate what is helpful for them. Obviously, the more feedback students get, the more valuable it becomes. Teachers should discuss the types of feedback they typically provide to their classes. Then ask students to share what types of feedback they have found most helpful.

The definition of “effective feedback” is going to be modified within your course. Poll your class to find out what types of feedback students think would improve their writing.



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