For many students, meaningful engagement with faculty beyond superficial classroom exchanges happens through the exchange of feedback on student work. Studies have shown that feedback that students receive from their teachers is crucial to their learning process and guides their improvement and development (Hattie and Timperley 2007; Race 2019). Most faculty acknowledge that feedback is meaningful and a ubiquitous part of their teaching; however, there is not much existent research on instructor feedback practices and beliefs.

As participants in the 2021-2023 CEL research seminar focused on (Re)Examining Conditions for Meaningful Learning Experiences, we spent the first year of our investigation collecting data from a range of institutions. The data include survey results (n=147) with Likert scale items, adapted from a survey by Winstone and Carless (2020), and open-ended questions about study participants’ feedback beliefs and practices. In our seminar work this summer, we have been analyzing data and noting trends, such as what appears to be a tension between what respondents said they believed was an important part of providing feedback—helping students become self-regulated learners—and whether they engaged in seeking evidence of the impact of feedback on student learning.

Bar chart showing agreement/disagreement to two statements: "Feedback is important in helping students to manage their own learning" (about 90% respondents agreed) and "I seek evidence of the impact of my feedback on students' learning" (about 60% of respondents agreed).

The quantitative data analysis of our Likert scale items suggests a contrast between holding the belief that feedback helps students manage their own learning versus reporting seeking evidence of impact on student learning. The results showed that a high percentage (90%) of instructors strongly agreed or agreed that feedback is important in helping students to manage their own learning. Yet fewer reported seeking evidence of the impact of feedback on their students’ learning, with 40% indicating that they disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that “I seek evidence of the impact of my feedback on student learning.”

Analysis of the open-ended questions supports this contrast. Instructors offered a number of explanations for why, despite their beliefs that feedback helps students manage learning, they did not seek evidence of this impact. For example, several participants cited the students’ maturity (e.g., “They are adults and they decide what to do with their adult lives”) or level of education (e.g., “It is up to them to decide what to do with the feedback as ours is a tertiary institute”) as reasons why they as instructors did not get involved with the feedback process beyond providing it to students. Some participants felt it was not their role as instructors to dictate what a student does upon receiving feedback on an assignment. One respondent wrote:

It’s entirely up to the student how they engage with the feedback. They can study it in detail and follow up with me should they have any further concerns or uncertainties, or they can entirely ignore it. I don’t see that I have any responsibility towards what the student does with my feedback; they are adults and they decide what to do with their adult lives.

Overall, instructors expressed strong feelings that the responsibility for uptake and use of feedback, including reaching out to instructors with questions, rested with the individual student.  Indeed, one emerging theme in our research that we look forward to examining further is: how faculty perceive and create feedback as a tool and opportunity for student ownership of their learning and engagement; and the intentional ways in which faculty prepare students to take action on feedback. And so, if we as faculty believe that it is important for students to become self-regulated learners, and further believe that it is our responsibility to guide students in that direction, then a first step is to think critically about how we can identify evidence of the impact of our feedback on student learning.

Undoubtedly, how we measure the impact of feedback will be affected by variables such as class size, subject matter, teaching experience, and institutional culture; however, we have noticed some emerging patterns in our research. For example, many faculty sought to provide their students with multiple opportunities for and modes of engaging with feedback, thereby creating feedback that was timely, consistent, and multimodal. Other faculty spoke about turning the feedback process into an open and meaningful dialogue between themselves and the students. Still others reported frank conversations with the students about the purpose and goal of feedback and worked to produce metacognitive moments in their classes. Finally, some found ways to combine these processes, such as one individual who wrote: 

I explain to students what to expect (e.g., written feedback that is both formative and summative, a grade, etc.), and I encourage students to talk with me if they have questions or concerns regarding the feedback. I will directly contact individual students if I have concerns or special affirmation to offer related to the feedback.

For our research team, we plan to continue this exploration of instructor feedback practices and beliefs, and we hope to identify some promising practices and ways of assessing how the feedback process can be used for building faculty-student relationships and empowering student ownership and active engagement. We also will continue to probe into how we might create a culture of feedback where the challenges and realities of feedback do not detract from the desired outcomes of this important tool for learning and meaning-making.


Hattie, John, and Helen Timperley. 2007. “The Power of Feedback.” Review of Educational Research 77 (1): 81–112.

Race, Philip. 2020. The Lecturer’s Toolkit: A Practical Guide to Assessment, Learning and Teaching. Fifth edition. London; New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Winstone, Naomi, and David Carless. 2019. Designing Effective Feedback Processes in Higher Education: A Learning-Focused Approach. 1st ed. Routledge.

Breana Bayraktar is an educational developer with the Stearns Center for Teaching & Learning at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. Prior to joining the Stearns Center, she taught community college ESL for eleven years. She received her Ed.D. in Educational Leadership in Manhattanville College and has worked in curriculum development, assessment, and teacher preparation for almost twenty years. | Twitter: @breana

Kiruthika Ragupathi is an associate director at the Centre for Development of Teaching and Learning, National University of Singapore. She co-leads professional development programmes and oversees the university’s teaching quality instruments—student feedback and peer review. Her research work focuses on academic development, assessment, interdisciplinary education, student living-learning experiences, and technology-enhanced learning. | Twitter: @krithiks

Katherine A. Troyer is the director of The Collaborative for Learning and Teaching at Trinity University in San Antonio, TX. She received her PhD in humanities from the University of Louisville. In addition to her SoTL work, she studies, teaches courses on, and podcasts about the horror genre. | Twitter: @nightmarepod1

How to Cite This Post

Bayraktar, Breana, Kiruthika Ragupathi, and Katherine A. Troyer. 2022. “Disconnect between Instructor Feedback Beliefs and Practices.” Center for Engaged Learning (blog), Elon University. July 19, 2022.