Effective student feedback: Ideas for feedback statements

Written by: Helen Webb | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

In the final part of this five-part series on effective pupil feedback, Helen Webb discusses ideas for specific feedback statements that can be used in conjunction with the comment banks approach that was described in her last article

It has been well publicised that feedback can have a significant impact on the progress that students make, but what do we have to say that makes feedback effective?

In this series, I have previously reviewed some of the available literature to discover what makes feedback effective and summarised this information into some top tips (see later for a link to all previous articles in this series).

Last week, I described the idea of using targeted comment banks as one method of delivering specific and personalised feedback to students so that we can not only ensure that the quality of feedback is high, but also significantly reduce marking workload. This article should be read in conjunction with last week’s: Student feedback: Creating and using comment banks, SecEd, September 2016: http://bit.ly/2dgrL61.

The difficulty encountered by many colleagues (including myself) is trying to figure out what to actually say when marking students’ work so that your feedback is effective and your students are able to maximise progress as a result. So, for those of you wishing to try comment banks for the first time, or if you want some ideas to improve your own feedback strategies, I offer some generic suggestions for feedback statements. Feel free to copy and paste, adapt and add your own. For specific tasks, it is always worth looking at examiner and moderator reports for your subject for common problems and misconceptions to look out for.


  • Please underline all dates and titles.
  • The use of sub-headings would help you to structure your work.
  • Your handwriting is difficult to read.
  • How could you have presented this better?
  • How would you have presented this differently for... (describe a different audience)?

Key words

  • Well done, you used and spelt key words appropriately.
  • Correct the spellings of the words I have circled.
  • What does (insert word) mean?
  • Which alternative word/phrase could you use here?
  • If you do not understand a key term, how can you find out?


  • Use an apostrophe if you want to shorten two words into one (e.g. can’t and won’t).
  • You only use it’s if you want to shorten it is. Otherwise it’s its!
  • Use ‘s to show ownership: e.g. the coat belonging to the lady – the lady’s coat.
  • Use s’ to show ownership for a group of people: e.g. all of the students’ work.


  • Well done, your explanation was fluently written, well structured and easy to understand.
  • How could you develop this point further?
  • How could you elaborate on this idea?
  • I really enjoyed reading this piece of work because:
    • You included humour.
    • You have clearly put a lot of effort into researching your work.
    • The key ideas were well thought out.
  • Your explanation of (insert factor) is excellent/incorrect/confusing.
  • A better explanation would be...
  • What is a better word to use here?
  • Have you considered...?
  • Can you phrase this a different way so that...?
  • I think that your work would benefit from an image/diagram to support your explanation.
  • You have given a simple explanation but you could have given further details, such as:
    • Model answer 1 from mark scheme.
    • Model answer 2 from mark scheme.
  • You could include further examples such as:
    • Example 1.
    • Example 2.
  • Try to put your ideas into your own words.
  • Can you now explain/teach this to another student?

Writing arguments

  • Well done, you included at least one advantage and one disadvantage.
  • Well done, you have written a well-balanced argument.
    • Which are the stronger arguments here?
    • What is your opinion?
  • You included an advantage but no disadvantage.
  • What would the impact of (insert factor) have on...?
  • Can you think of any flaws in this argument?
  • Who might be opposed/in favour of this idea?
  • What would the argument of (insert person/character) be?
  • What language could you use to be more persuasive?
  • How could you make this point more/less forcefully?
  • What are the ethical/social/economic issues here?
  • Well done, your evidence clearly backed up your arguments.
  • How else could this be interpreted?
  • What else might this evidence show?


  • Underline key information in the question stem to help you work out which equation to use.
  • You showed your working out which helped me understand how you calculated the answer.
  • To avoid confusion, write out the equation you wish to use, and then write the values from the question stem underneath.
  • To gain maximum marks, clearly show each stage of your calculation.
  • Well done, you included the correct units for all of your answers.
  • Your answers are correct but you forgot to add units.
  • What would be the correct units to use here?
  • You needed to convert (insert value) into (insert value) before completing this calculation.
  • Read the question carefully...
    • What would a sensible answer be?
    • Between what values would you expect the answer to be?
  • If the answer is 0.5 or above you round up, and 0.4 or below you round down.
  • How many decimal places does the question ask you to use?
  • Your use of decimal places is incorrect/inconsistent.

Exam technique

  • Underline each command word so you know how to answer each part of the question.
  • Make sure that you answer each part of the question to gain maximum marks.
  • Highlight all the key terms in the question to help you focus your ideas.
  • Don’t use the terms “it” or “they” – state what it is you are referring to.
  • If there are three marks available, try to make three different points.
  • Make sure to carefully proof-read your work for spelling, punctuation and grammar errors.
  • When you have finished writing your answer, read it through to check that it makes sense.


  • Well done, you have correctly cited all sources of information.
  • Include the author and the date in brackets at appropriate points in the text (e.g. for all key facts, statistics, images etc).
  • List all the references you used in alphabetical order at the end of your work.
  • Use the correct format to fully reference all of your sources (see guidance for Harvard/Vancouver referencing).
  • When referencing websites make sure you include the date the work was published and the date you accessed the information.
  • Use the full URL when referencing online sources.
  • What criteria did you use to ensure your sources were the most appropriate for an essay/article/piece of work such as this?

Specific tasks for the student response

  • For your own record, copy out the feedback that has been targeted to you.
  • Having read your feedback, can you now finish this sentence: “To improve I need to...”
  • If you did not know the answer, what could you have done to find the information?
  • Use a different coloured pen to add, amend or rewrite your answer using the feedback given.
  • How could you have researched this question/task more thoroughly?
  • Write/ask me a question that would help you to improve this task.

Other effective questions/tasks

  • Explain why I have highlighted this.
  • What strategies did you use to complete this task?
  • What is the explanation/justification for this correct answer?
  • What other questions could you ask about this concept?
  • What advice would you give to someone else who struggled with this work?
  • Can you link this to a real-life example?
  • Can you link this to another subject/topic?
  • Helen Webb is an experienced science and biology teacher with a professional interest in developing CPD for teachers. She works at Lutterworth College in Leicestershire. You can follow her @helenfwebb

Further articles

This is the fifth and final article in this series on effective feedback. To read all of Helen’s earlier pieces in the series, go to http://bit.ly/2cLa6UZ


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