As a GTA, you may not be involved in setting assessments, but you may be involved in marking. You will also have an important role to play in providing feedback to students. Some useful information is included below,

Assessment & Feedback

There are two main types of assessment with distinctly different purposes:

Figure 5

The main purpose of summative assessment, or assessment OF learning, is to check what students know, usually for the purpose of measuring performance so that you can award a grade or a qualification, but also to document achievements and standards to present to external stakeholders. As a GTA, you may be involved in summative assessments by becoming part of a marking team.

You will have a greater role in formative assessment, or assessment FOR learning. This entails a whole host of assessment methods for the purpose of ascertaining the student’s current level of learning so that you can provide feedback to enable the student to progress towards achievement of the intended learning outcomes. This is where the link between assessment and feedback is most apparent.

Why not try some of these formative assessment methods with your students:

Formative Assessment MethodDescription
Polling You can gain information about students’ understanding of a particular topic by running a quick poll. This could be done with a simple ‘hands up’ exercise, or you could conduct a written poll, perhaps using Mentimeter so that students can interact using their mobile devices and submit responses anonymously. 
One minute aper The one minute paper is a quick method to gain written information about students’ learning. Give students a minute (or slightly longer) to respond to variations of the following questions: what is the most significant thing you have learned in today’s session? What (question) remains uppermost in your mind? Students either write their responses on paper, or you could ask them to email you or contribute responses on a Padlet. Allocate a few minutes at the start of the next session to address any questions. 
Muddiest point This is a variation of the one minute paper. You ask students to respond to one question: what was the muddiest point of… (today’s topic, tutorial, experiment, assignment…) This can help to identify which aspects of learning are particularly challenging for your students 
Directed paraphrase This technique could be used as a short plenary at the end of a session, or it could be a longer task in its own right. After students have worked through a particular topic, they are asked to explain the key content in lay, non-technical language. Students will need to have a good understanding of the subject matter in order to explain the key concepts in their own words. They are also likely to consolidate their learning by explaining the content to other people. 
Student-generated test questions This activity allows you to collect written feedback about what students think are the most important concepts discussed in class. Write general guidelines about the kinds of questions used for an upcoming exam or assignment and share these guidelines with your students. You can then ask them to write and answer one to two questions like those they expect to see on the assessment. This could be done in a fun, game-based way using quiz generators, such as Kahoot!, or you could ask students to use PeerWise, which is used at Imperial for students to create and share assessment questions. 
Traffic lights  This is a simple method to check students’ understanding of a concept before you move on to something new. You create signals for students to communicate their level of understanding, e.g. a green card = full understanding, a yellow card = partial understanding, a red card = little understanding. This could also be done electronically using a quick Mentimeter poll. 
Quick quizzes  To assess your students’ knowledge of a particular topic, you can insert a quick quiz at any point during the session. This could be done either using questions that you have created, or by using student-generated questions, or a mix of both. You could also create fun online quizzes and ask students to submit their responses before the session so that you can plan your teaching accordingly. There are many quick and easy quiz generators, such as this one. 
World cafes This is a way of pooling students’ knowledge about a particular topic or a variety of concepts. You set up stations around the classroom with a question at each station. Each station contains flipchart paper and pens, or in its purest form, there are tables with paper table cloths that students can write on. Groups of students move around the room to visit each station and contribute their thoughts and ideas in response to each question. This activity also allows students to learn from each other and build on each other’s ideas. Leave time at the end to summarise and check students’ understanding. 
Summary of the table's contents

Come along to the Introduction to Assessment and Feedback for Learning course, where we discuss these methods in more detail.

Consider these definitions of feedback:

“Information communicated to the learner that is intended to modify his or her thinking or behaviour for the purpose of improving learning” (Shute 2008).

 “Feedback involves dialogic processes whereby learners make sense of information from various sources and use it to enhance their work or learning strategies” (Carless 2016).

Do you agree with either of these definitions?

Each definition has a different purpose: Shute’s definition presents a product-oriented view of feedback, i.e. the teacher gives something (information/advice) to the learner, whereas Carless presents a process view of feedback, engaging the learner in a dialogue and placing the emphasis on the student rather than the teacher.

Both definitions may be helpful when considering what feedback is and why you are doing it. However, Carless’ process-oriented view helps us to shift away from the idea that the teacher is the main source of information. The main difference between these definitions is perhaps the difference between telling and showing.

Giving feedback is in many ways rather a personal and subjective process, so there is no ‘best’ way that will work for everyone. However, there are several models which you can try out:

The feedback sandwich

This is a common and easy-to-use technique to ensure there is a balance between positive and constructive feedback. You start by commenting on something the student has done well, then identify an area for development, and finish with another piece of positive feedback.

This approach is quite popular as it is a simple technique. Some, however, find the concept of the feedback sandwich problematic. It is sometimes criticised for being too simplistic and for making constructive criticism (the part between the two positive slices of bread) seem scary or undesirable. The ‘sandwich’ is also constructed by the tutor with little input from the learner.

Pendleton’s rules

Pendleton’s (1984) rules are commonly cited as a method of providing balanced feedback. The model is presented as a list of five rules:

  • Clarify any points of information; state the facts.
  • The learner identifies what they think went well.
  • The teacher adds their observations and thoughts and reinforces the positive points.
  • The learner adds what went less well and what they would do differently next time.
  • The teacher adds their thoughts and recommendations for next time.

This method is similar to the feedback sandwich, providing a balance of positive and developmental feedback, but the learner is engaged explicitly in a dialogue with the tutor.


The BOOST model ensures that key qualities of good feedback are present:

  • Balanced – Mix of positive and constructive, developmental points.
  • Observed – Provide examples of what you have seen and/or heard.
  • Objective – Focus on actions and behaviours that can be changed. Avoid subjective comments about the student or about behaviours which cannot be changed.
  • Specific – Refer to specific examples from the student’s work.
  • Timely – Provide the feedback as soon as possible after the assessment has taken place.


This approach helps to make sure feedback is succinct and targeted:

  • Point: what have you observed? What do you want to draw the student’s attention to?
  • Explain: what is the effect of what you have observed? There may be positive and developmental comments here.
  • Example: contextualise your comments by finding a specific example in the student’s work.

These models are intended to help instigate feedback processes and to help you to frame the feedback conversations you have with your students. Explore these, and other approaches, and find what works best for you. Come along to the Introduction to Assessment and Feedback for Learning course to explore these approaches further.

Information about providing effective feedback can also be found in the following document, which can be found on the supervisors’ guidebook webpages:

As well as giving feedback to students, it is important to also gather feedback on your teaching so that you can reflect on and evaluate your teaching. Try out some of the following:

  • One minute paper – this has already been mentioned as a formative assessment method. However, you could also use this technique to ask for feedback on an aspect of your teaching. You are likely to receive more useful and honest feedback if this is done anonymously online. You could also use information from one minute papers to reflect on your teaching of a particular concept: if the majority of students raise the same topic or issue, it is likely that you need to reconsider how you to teach that particular point.
  • Polling – various types of polling have also been mentioned as a formative assessment technique. You could set up an anonymous Mentimeter poll with questions about your teaching.
  • Teaching diary – you can keep a diary in which you note down brief reflections after teaching sessions or particular activities. This can help you to verbalise your thoughts and experiences, and reflect on practices that work particularly well and those which require changes and improvements.
  • Peer observations – reciprocal peer observations are an excellent way of exchanging feedback on teaching practices. Observe, and be observed by, as many GTAs as possible. Teaching is a personal activity and you are likely to learn something different from each person you observe. It is also useful to practise giving feedback to others on their teaching. If you are applying for Associate Fellowship of the HEA, you will need to conduct a peer observation and write a peer reference for a fellow GTA. There is more detailed information about observations in the Microteaching course.
  • Observations of academic colleagues – you can also gain useful insights into teaching methods by observing experienced academic colleagues. If possible, it is helpful if some of your colleagues can reciprocate and observe you, too. As well as providing you with feedback, they are also likely to learn from your teaching.
  • Staff-student liaison committees – student representatives gather feedback on the teaching of each course, so you can gather useful insights by asking for the comments from your course staff-student liaison committee. You could also find out who the student representatives are and ask them to seek feedback from the students on your GTA work.
  • Attend a Microteaching session – the GTA Programme runs a Microteaching course. This session involves teaching a 10-minute, filmed segment of a lesson to one or two tutors and a small group of GTAs (a maximum of five GTAs per session). This provides a ‘safe’ space to practise teaching and to gain instant feedback from tutors and peers. The schedule of Microteaching sessions can be found on the Microteaching course page on Blackboard and on the GTA website.
  • Carless, D. (2016) Feedback as dialogue. In: M. A. Peters (ed.) Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory. DOI: 10.1007/978-981-287-532-7_389-1.
  • Nicol, D. (2007) Principles of good assessment and feedback: Theory and practice. Paper presented at the REAP International Online Conference on Assessment Design for Learner Responsibility. 29 May 2007, Scotland.
  • Nicol, D. & D. Macfarlane-Dick (2006) Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: a model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in Higher Education. 31(2):199-218.
  • Shute, V. J. (2008) Focus on formative feedback. Review of Educational Research. 78(1): 153-189.