Institute for Academic Development
Institute for Academic Development

Assessment & feedback basic guidance

Assessment and feedback: some basic principles; plus information on the IAD's current work in this area.

The five points made below may seem completely obvious yet at national level (in the National Student Satisfaction Survey for example) and at Edinburgh these have been highlighted as areas for further enhancement.

Making assessment feedback effective: five fundamental things

1. Transparency

Are your students fully aware of what is expected of them in terms of their learning and in the work they are asked to produce? Do they understand how they are to be assessed and what a good assignment ‘looks’ like? This helps them understand where you’re coming from in terms of your concept of assessment.

2.Understanding the students’ point of view

Assessment and feedback practices may make perfect sense to you but this may not always be the case for your students. Understanding how they approach their work and view their studies may be useful.

This is not a suggestion that you ‘give them what they want’ rather to understand their concept of assessment and also how feedback can be made useful for them.

Having a better understanding of students’ point of view will help you communicate.


Is the feedback that students receive helpful to them? Can they use it to enhance their work in the future? Do they know where they went wrong and how they can address this next time?

Markers often address issues within a piece of work and how it can be improved but this is not always useful unless the student is going to repeat the assignment or carry out a new one that is very similar.

4.Link feedback to following assignments

This follows on from the previous point and involves explicitly tailoring feedback so it can be used by the recipient in future assignments. This may include ‘feed forward’ where feedback is given before final submission (asking students to submit a draft for example) or students undertaking guided planning before beginning the main assignment. It can also include asking students to make a short plan for how they will approach their next assignments.


This is possibly the most common issue raised by students. Often feedback from one assignment is not provided in time for students to take it on board and apply the lessons to their next assignment. The best feedback in the world will not be very useful if it is not provided in time.

At Edinburgh there is now a regulation to address this issue across the whole university. More information can be found at the Academic Services website:

Academic Services - feedback information

Bearing in mind the need to help students improve their work, it is most important that they receive formative assessment in a timely fashion.

IAD work on supporting assessment and feedback

We have appointment a Lecturer to focus on assessment and feedback work, and support other staff - such as IAD secondees and researchers - working in this area.

Currently our work focusses on:

  • Working with academic Schools and subject areas to develop bespoke training and ongoing support relevant to identified needs
  • Working with specific Schools using Transforming the Experience of Students Through Assessment (TESTA) as part of the Leading Enhancement in Assessment Feedback (LEAF)
  • Offering central workshops from the IAD, generally open to interested staff
  • Supporting specific staff groups, such as Junior Teaching Fellows, with roles that focus on assessment and feedback


Please get in touch with Neil Lent in the first instance:

Dr Neil Lent

Lecturer (University Learning and Teaching)

Contact details

Related Link

The University has approved new assessment and feedback principles that can be found here:

Donwload the University feedback and assessment principles and priorities document (PDF)