There are six topics in this section relating to Writing and assessments:

Critical essay writing | Reflective writing | Reports | Dissertations | Academic writing style, editing and proof-reading | Feedback (this page) | AI


Alessandro and Rodrigo talk about the feedback they have received

  • Video transcript

    Alessandro: I'll be honest, I didn't really have that many difficulties. And if I did get a bad grade, then I would just set up a meeting with the teacher to talk about it, see what I did wrong. What can I improve? And then I'll just use that feedback in my next essays.

    Rodrigo: I think it's about feedback. I think it's about talking to your tutor, to your teachers because they really direct you to what they are expecting from you from that question, from that assignment, from that module, from that class. And I think that's really helpful for you to understand. I think it's about understanding what they are asking you to do. I think that's more or less it - trying to talk to your friends as well to your peers in class, maybe they have a different thought on that, that you haven't thought of. And we can help each other for sure. Because we're all working together with each other, with tutors, with staff, with other classes, with other students. And I think it's all about working together and because if we work alone, we're not going anywhere.

Students at Sussex receive various kinds of feedback about their academic progress. It’s an essential part of learning at university. Feedback highlights the areas of study that are going well, the ones that need work, and what to do to improve.

Receiving Feedback

There are various ways of getting feedback on your work at Sussex. Often, it depends on your course, but there are also methods of getting feedback that you can actively seek out.

  • your tutor provides marks and comments on your submitted work
  • you may get this feedback online in writing or audio or as comments written on your work
  • your mark reflects your achievement for that particular piece of work
  • the comments are not a justification for your mark
  • your tutor selects and comments on the most important areas where you've done well and where you can improve. Tutors carefully select their feedback and won't comment on everything.
  • during teaching sessions, tutors may give you verbal feedback
  • try to contribute in seminars and, when appropriate, ask questions in lectures. It can seem daunting at first to speak out, but these are your opportunities to express your ideas. Your tutor can only give you feedback if you participate
  • often, verbal feedback is given immediately after a presentation or during discussions. You may be so relieved after finishing a presentation that you lose concentration and miss valuable feedback. It's a good idea to make some quick notes of what people say so you can re-read them later - or ask permission to record their comments, if that's easier

    Tutor feedback

    Sussex students analysing feedback together

  • if you are not clear how you could improve your work, make an appointment to speak to the tutor for the module or your Academic Advisor
  • your tutor has office hours when they are available to discuss your progress. Check the module Canvas page for how to make an appointment
  • make the most of your Academic Advisor. Your Academic Advisor can offer you guidance and discuss your academic performance throughout your degree. You may find it helpful to talk about specific pieces of work and the feedback you have received. It might be useful to send the work to them before you meet
  • for your modules at Sussex, your tutors set up a Canvas site with resources to support your learning. The sites include links to lecture recordings and slide and recommended materials, and there may be opportunities for feedback. Forum discussions can be a good way to get informal feedback and discuss ideas with other students on your module. Your tutor is able to see your discussions and contribute to any discussion threads
  • discussing ideas with other students on your course can be an effective way of developing your ideas. If you are struggling with new concepts, other students may be able to explain them to you in a way that you understand. They may also be able to suggest materials that they found useful
  • the Student Mentor scheme in your School is another way to gain feedback from your peers. Find out more about mentoring on your School website
  • compare your marks for different modules, and for assignments within modules. This helps you work out where you need to improve. Marks for each year are released the following September. So, in September of your third year, you can look at all your marks from the second year on Canvas.


Saira and Emmanuel talk about feedback

  • Video transcript

    Saira: I'd say the first thing that I remember was, I think, for my English Legal System module. It may or may not have been assessed, I can't remember, but it was essentially a case summary, and that's not something I've ever done before. But I remember that when I attended my seminars, they gave a really good outline for what it is I need to do. For me, I think the most memorable thing about that is getting the feedback. So I think we had a formative and then we had the summative, but it was both essentially the same task. So for me, I felt like I had a lot of support throughout that time. And then I think acting on the feedback is the most important thing because then you'll know, from the perspective of a marker, what it is that they look for.I think that's something that I've carried through until now.

    Emmanuel: I would say coming from sixth form to university, I'll say the jump in terms of academic writing, it wasn't as harsh as like other areas of my studies. I would say it definitely did improve in terms of, you know, citing, research, speaking to people and actually getting first-hand and second-hand research as well. But I'll say it's definitely improved from first year to where I am now. You know, just having that practice of writing longer assignments or writing longer essays and then also just getting that experience of improving your grammar or improving a sentence structure. Improving on where to add images, or where not to add images and everything. So I'll say it's something that's improved over time.

Let’s be honest - It is never easy to receive feedback which criticises your work. You may even feel upset or confused about the feedback you get. This is normal. Remember to take a balanced view: not only are there areas for improvement, but there are also parts that you did well. Allow yourself to feel proud about them. Assessments at university are about progressing and getting better. Perhaps you didn’t do as well as you wanted, but there are always more opportunities to demonstrate your knowledge and skills.

Using Feedback

Being a good reflective learner entails thinking about the feedback you receive and implementing it into your next assessment.

  • many students just look at their mark and don’t read the comments carefully. This is a mistake. It is important to read and understand what your tutor thought of the different parts of your assignment
  • the assessment may be over but that does not mean the feedback is now irrelevant
  • note down all the comments that were made about how you could improve your work. This helps you understand good performance and what is expected of you
  • review the assignment guidelines to make sure you understand where you could have done better
  • tutors may give advice on common errors made in students' work in general feedback from the assessment, or in lectures or other sessions. For some modules, your tutors provide sample answers. Work through these examples to see where you went wrong and how to improve
  • identify specific goals to help you improve next time
  • are there any suggestions in the comments that you can take on board now, before you start the next assessment, e.g., reading more widely in your field of study?
  • always re-read the comments before you start your next piece of written work.
  • keep all comments from all feedback in the same place, so that you begin to build up a picture of your progress throughout your degree, and areas that you need to focus on


Adapted from Nicol, D. J. & Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2006) 'Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: a model and seven principles of good feedback practice' Studies in Higher Education, 31(2), pp. 199-218.


Rodrigo and Reuben talk about feedback

  • Video transcript

    Rodrigo: I think it's normal for you in your first year to get some forties. It's a completely new environment. Personally and educationally, obviously. I think one thing that maybe some tutors should improve on is the feedback or how to correct things or have the same levels from what they expect from us. Because we go to some tutors and they tell us one thing and we go to other teachers and they tell us a completely different thing. And the feedback, for example, I remember going with a 40, going to my tutor and he said, okay, this is not too bad, okay, this is not too bad. Okay, this is not too bad. Okay, then why did you give me a 40? And that sometimes can be really frustrating. But yes, again, it's part of it, getting forties. I remember feeling sad. I remember feeling kind of angry. But at the same time I was like, okay, it's a process. Given the circumstances that I just completely changed country and culture and everything. And friends and family. Okay, it's not too bad. And I can still pass with the 40. I still have two years. This year doesn't even count towards the final grade. So, yes, next one, the next essay, I just have to be more careful with it.

    Reuben: It's going to sound boring because you hear it all the time, but go back and look at the feedback the tutors gave you. Some tutors don't give any feedback and you can go back to either the seminar tutor or try the tutor again and say. 'This wasn't the grade I wanted and can you help me just do the feedback?' And you will start hearing probably the same things again until you get the hang of it. It does make the biggest difference because I really want to come out with a good grade, as do a lot of students. And you will get the hang of it if you just quietly in your head just think, okay, what are those things I keep doing? One of mine was that I kept using too many quotes. Because I think the quotes sound so great and you've just got to put it in your own words. So, I've had that feedback maybe four times now, and I don't know, it seems like, 'Why am I still doing it?' But it can just be hard in the rush of things to listen to that. The first year doesn't count for your marks, I think, for most subjects. So just remember that, just keep listening to it and then it will make the biggest difference, I think, yes. Just listen to that feedback, and I think there's extra sessions you can go to that can give you further feedback on your work. And I do a lot of reflecting on that because to me just seems like the key. If you can work out where you're going wrong and slowly iron that stuff out, then your grades are just going to jump up - there's no two ways about it.

Other topics in this section relating to Writing and assessments:

Critical essay writing | Reflective writing | Reports | Dissertations | Academic writing style, editing and proof-reading | Feedback (this page)