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How can we organise a continuous feedback loop?

Dear colleagues,

From my experiences as a student and a teacher I’ve noticed that feedback for students often constitutes a single feedback moment, rather than a continuous feedback loop.

Students generally appreciate feedback, but I rarely know what they end up doing with my feedback. At the same time, I usually do not know what feedback a student has received from other teachers/mentors. This means I can’t tailor my feedback to the specific student.

Does anyone have experience with setting up a continuous feedback loop for students? Perhaps within a specific study? I would love to hear your ideas on how to make this possible.


Max van Haastrecht
PhD Candidate

Max van Haastrecht
2 februari 2021


  1. Oomen, C.C.E. (Claudy)
    Oomen, C.C.E. (Claudy)

    In recent years, feedback research has focused more on the receiver’s perspective. Even if your feedback message is on spot, many teachers still wonder how to get students to take action on it. The following tips (summarizing research outcomes) may help:
    • Indicate what the goal/function is of your feedback and what you expect of the student. Don’t use literal corrections, but make sure that your feedback contains clear cues for improvement (indicate the direction).
    • Make clear that revision (e.g. of a written assigment) or any other action upon feedback, is a ‘normal’ and essential step in the learning process.
    • Ask students what they want feedback on. In this way, you give students responsibility for their own learning process. Of course, you can add your own comments, but stay focused on the learning objectives/criteria.
    • Ask students to reflect on their work, after the feedback. Ask them what they found the most valuable feedback, how they will incorporate the feedback, and what will be their first step or action points. Students can also do this in pairs/small groups, e.g. in a seminar. Of course, you can also do this with peer feedback

  2. Bert Le Bruyn
    Bert Le Bruyn

    My main suggestion would be to go for what I would dub the Matryoshka principle (referring to the dolls) in the planning of your assignments: earlier assignments are input for later assignments, allowing your feedback to effectively become feedforward. This should increase the motivation on the part of the student to work with the feedback and should also make it easier for the teacher to give focussed feedback as it would be geared towards a specific goal.

  3. Max van Haastrecht
    Max van Haastrecht

    Hey Claudy and Bert, thanks so much for the input. I think these are great approaches to get and give useful feedback within a course. Regarding Bert’s approach, you could maybe even start the Matryoshka phase before the course, by asking students what they would like to improve on during the course. I’m going to try and see how I can incorporate these tips in my teaching. If anyone else has tips regarding the “long-term” aspect of feedback (i.e., not just within a course, but over a series of courses, years within a study etc.), those are always welcome as well!

  4. Julia Kasch
    Julia Kasch

    Hi Max,

    interesting questions. Claudy and Bert already shared some great tips so maybe this paper by Carless (2019) can help you?

    Carless, D. (2019). Feedback loops and the longer-term: towards feedback spirals. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 44(5), 705-714.

    Carless, 2019

  5. Max van Haastrecht
    Max van Haastrecht

    Hey Julia,

    Really interesting paper! This is sort of exactly what I was thinking of, but Carless motivates it much better haha. I think this is a key challenge: “Teaching teams can embed the development of student feedback literacy within programme-wide approaches to feedback.” I think programme-wide is certainly the way to go. How exactly is of course the question…

  6. Rik Vangangelt
    Rik Vangangelt

    An interesting question and I think a common problem.

    Last period I gave a course in academic writing. Three intermediate essays had to be handed in. For the second and third essay, I also looked at the earlier essays: had earlier feedback improved (constructively)? Or did students still have problems with it?

    At a presentation of this project (https://cat-database.sites.uu.nl/project/taalvaardigheid-van-de-uu-student/), I also heard that they set up a learning line in which they always worked with the same feedback criteria. That way, you still don’t know what a student has heard before, but you are always working on the same things.

    In your case, it would be very beneficial to read earlier feedback from other teachers, but I am also curious if this would lead to a bias!

  7. Max van Haastrecht
    Max van Haastrecht

    Hey Rik,

    Thanks for the practical implementation example. Always helps to clear things up! It would certainly be great to set up a learning line where these things are taken into account. I’m going to see how far my circle of influence reaches in that regard.

    And interesting point about the bias. There are certainly downsides as well. I can imagine there might be some GDPR-related issues as well, where sharing of (sometimes quite personal) feedback can only be allowed under strictly regulated circumstances and with consent of students and teachers.

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