Feedback: Not only for the past but also for the future

Do you often feel conflicting emotions of expectation and worry after submitting a written assignment? Such feelings are frequently heightened after getting grades and feedback from our marker. Have you ever spent time reading the feedback than on the final grade only? Unfortunately, many of us stop there and leave our markers’ feedback alone. However, when we skip the feedback section, we seem to waste some very useful, personalised tips that not only complement our understanding of the grade, but also provide us with suggestions on how to improve for the next assignment. In this week’s blog, Amber guides us through making the most of our feedback.

By Amber Zhang.

A grade is just a number, and feedback is something we can use for improvement. The usefulness of feedback goes far beyond the marker’s evaluation of that essay; it is a learning opportunity that allows for continuous improvement, self-discovery, and the development of good habits. Using feedback effectively is a vital component of any degree programme, and I will share some tips and experiences on how I used it.

Understand our feedback

Feedback can be classified as “suggestive” and “encouraging”, but it is often the “suggestive” or the “critical” that can lead us to a higher grade. “Critical” feedback may have heavy emotional impacts and may even undermine our confidence. But using them properly would benefit us significantly. Here is my to-do list after getting feedback.

  1. Whether the grade is good or bad, put the assignment aside for a day or two to allow a brief break from it. Reading through the feedback provided by the marker again afterwards often ensures that I am reading and understanding each comment in a less emotional (joyful or frustrated) state of mind.
  2. Review the feedback (in-text and overview comments) to check if I understand and agree with the marking. Then reread the essay with the feedback in mind. If you have any questions/concerns about the feedback, don’t be afraid to contact your marker! We will only be able to improve if we understand what we’re being recommended to do.

But don’t ignore positive feedback! It’s easy to dwell on the critical comments, but we can also learn from the positive aspects of our work. Keep them up and build our confidence.

A group of peopled sat round a table with laptops and papers, discussing work.
You might even find it useful to talk through your feedback with your peers, and find ways you can learn from each other. Image: University of Warwick.

Record our feedback

Once read and understood, it is important to create a storage system of our feedback for future reference. Feedback is useful when preparing for our next assignment! Recording can be done in various ways, whether a table, mind map or something that could help you visualise the strengths and weaknesses. And the recording needs to be in a way that suits us and is achievable so we can easily use it to review the feedback and learn from different works.

Also, if the marker comments on the same point multiple times, it is worth prioritising the feedback into separate categories, which may help us to identify the specific issues and provide an idea of where to focus.

Here is the template table I use to store feedback on each work.

Assignment Details & GradeOverall Learning PointsStructure & CoherenceResearch & referencingCriticality & ArgumentLanguage & StyleUnderstanding & Content
A man with short brown hair sat at a desk reading some books and papers.
Take the time to work through your feedback to improve your assignments in the future. Image: University of Warwick.

Use our feedback

Once we have a system to collect and store feedback, we have a great resource to help us improve. I recommend revisiting the feedback regularly, especially before submitting our next assignment. As presented in the table above, I personally tend to compartmentalise the marking criteria, which not only helps me to avoid making the same mistakes but also helps me become more aware of and consolidate my strengths!

A girl with blonde hair pulling an orange book off a bookshelf. There are other bookshelves in the background.
Only by using the feedback you’ve mused over will you improve on your next assessment. Image: University of Warwick.

The grades of submitted work are part of the past that seems unlikely to change, but the feedback attached is the space for our future improvements.

If you’re starting to think about the biggest assignment of all, the dissertation, then check out some of our handy blog posts here. If your assessment is more exam based, take a look at our post on memorising information or check out our handy guide to managing lab classes.

What’s the most useful piece of feedback you’ve received? How has it helped you get better in the future? Let us know by tweeting us @warwicklibrary, sending us a message on Instagram @warwicklibrary or by emailing us at

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