Formative Assessment and Feedback

Feedback is "information about how we are doing in our efforts to reach a goal." Helpful feedback is always goal-referenced: The performer has a clear goal, and the feedback tells whether he or she is on track or needs to make adjustments. Helpful feedback is also tangible, actionable, user-friendly, timely, ongoing, and consistent (Wiggins, 2012).

While feedback is certainly an important component of an effective summative assessment strategy, feedback and formative assessment are intricately linked. Formative assessment consists of “frequent, ‘low stakes’ opportunities for students to monitor their progress towards learning goals.” As long as students receive timely feedback on their performance, many types of assignments – both in-class and outside assignments – can be considered formative assessments (MIT Teaching + Learning Lab, 2020).  

This guide highlights the close relationship between formative assessment and feedback.

Classroom/Learning Assessment Techniques 

Both Classroom Assessment and Learning Assessment embed assessment within active learning activities

Angelo and Cross (1993) developed fifty Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs), a set of formative techniques that faculty can use to quickly determine if students are mastering the content and if modifications should be made to teaching strategies. These techniques can be implemented in class or online, are usually not graded, and are often anonymous (Angelo & Cross, 1993). The fifty techniques are organized into three major categories: (1) Techniques for Assessing Course-Related Knowledge & Skills; (2) Techniques for Assessing Learner Attitudes, Values, and Self-Awareness; and (3) Techniques for Assessing Learner Reactions to Instruction. (The website provides brief descriptions of the techniques. Refer to Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers by Angelo and Cross for complete descriptions and implementation guidance.) 

More recently, Barkley and Major built on the work of Cross and Angelo with Learning Assessment Techniques (LATs), focused on identifying and communicating clear learning goals; helping students achieve these goals through activities that promote active, engaged learning; and analyzing, reporting, and reflecting upon results in ways that lead to continued improvement. A distinctive feature of Barkley and Major’s work is an emphasis on using LATs for collecting learning outcomes data for institutional assessment and assembling evidence of teaching effectiveness for promotion and tenure review (Barkley and Major, 2016). Fifty LATs are organized around Fink’s (2003) Taxonomy of Significant Learning into six major categories: Foundational Knowledge, Application, Integration, Human Dimension, Caring, Learning How to Learn. See Learning Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty (Barkley and Major) for full descriptions of all fifty LATs and guidelines for implementing them.  

Classroom/Learning Assessment Resources 

Self-Check Assignments 

Pyc, Agarwal & Roediger (2014) noted the value of practice quizzes and tests and self-regulated learning to promote long-term student learning and retention. Self-check quizzes can provide frequent feedback for students while helping to manage the grading and feedback workload for faculty. Self-assessments are a valuable source of formative feedback for faculty, facilitating targeted course revisions.  

  • Use a variety of question types, including short answers.  
  • Consider allowing students multiple attempts on self-check quizzes.  
  • You may or not want to grade self-check quizzes. If you do, consider having the student’s highest grade recorded.  
  • By limiting the amount of time students have to take the self-check, students may be less likely to look up answers. Faculty get more accurate information about students’ level of understanding. 
  • Provide model answers for short answer-type questions and annotate the answers to point out critical attributes of a correct response. The self-check will be a better learning experience if you explain why particular answers are incorrect and suggest specific follow-up actions that students can take to reinforce their understanding. 
  • Many textbook publishers have resources available to support student self-checks, including practice quizzes and flashcards. Check with your publisher rep or visit the textbook publisher’s website for more information. 

Adding feedback in Canvas quizzes : You can add feedback to any assessment question created with New Quizzes. Students can view your feedback when they view their results after submitting an assessment. In addition to general feedback, students will see all feedback comments relevant to their answer choices. 

You can also add feedback to any answer choice when creating a Multiple Choice question

Note: Because Essay and File Upload question types require manual grading, any feedback responses added to these question types only display after the quiz is graded and scores are posted. 


Peer Assessment

In a meta-analysis of studies that evaluated the impact of peer assessment on academic performance, Double, McGrane, and Hopfenbeck (2019) concluded that the effectiveness of peer assessment was remarkably robust across a wide range of contexts.  

Peer assessment can be formative or summative. Students can give feedback on each other’s drafts before a final product is submitted, or they can use a rubric to grade final submissions.  

Peer assessment can be used with written work, presentations, performances, posters, videos, and other types of assignments and as a strategy for students to assess the contributions of peers to group work and assignments (University of British Columbia, n.d.). 

When students evaluate and provide feedback on their peers’ work they can benefit in a number of ways: 

  • they receive more frequent and timely feedback than when the instructor is the only one providing it, 
  • they get feedback on drafts and are able to make improvements, and 
  • they engage in the critical analysis and reflection associated with assessing the work of their peers (University of British Columbia, n.d.).  

Peer Assessment Resources 



Angelo, T. A. and Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. Second Edition. Jossey-Bass, Inc. 

Barkley, E. F., & Major, C. H. (2016). Learning Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.… 

Double, K.S., McGrane, J.A. & Hopfenbeck, T.N.. (2019). The Impact of Peer Assessment on Academic Performance: A Meta-analysis of Control Group Studies. Educational Psychology Review, 32(2), 481–509 

Fink, D. L. (2003). A self-directed guide to designing courses for significant learning. Retrieved from 

MIT Teaching + Learning Lab. (2020). Assess for Learning. Retrieved from 

Pyc, M.A., Agarwal, P.K. & Roediger, H.R. III. (2014). Test-enhanced Learning In V. A. Benassi, C. E. Overson, & C. M. Hakala (Eds.). Applying science of learning in education: Infusing psychological science into the curriculum. Retrieved from the Society for the Teaching of Psychology website: 

University of British Columbia. (n.d.). Ideas and Strategies for Peer Assessments. Retrieved from 

Wiggins, G. (2012) Seven Keys to Effective Feedback. Educational Leadership 70(1),10-16. Retrieved from