Masterclass: Professor David Carless

Professor David Carless

Towards a framework for learner self-generated feedback
A seductive trap in thinking about feedback is to see it mainly as teachers informing students about the strengths and weaknesses of their work, and how it could be improved. This kind of teacher transmission of hopefully useful information rarely seems to work (Boud & Molloy 2013). Feedback approaches that emphasise teacher telling are insufficient because it is difficult for students to decode or act on one-way statements, so key messages remain invisible (Sadler 2010). Teacher-driven approaches are also unsustainable in that assessment and feedback for the longer-term should encourage shared responsibilities between students and teachers.

This conceptual paper proposes a broader view of feedback as involving students making use of their own internal resources to enhance their work or learning strategies. A powerful way of stimulating self-generated feedback is by engineering opportunities for students to make comparisons between their own work-in-progress and that of others (Nicol 2020). Self-generated feedback is triggered when students compare their own production with that of multiple other attempts at the same task.

A framework for broader conceptualisations of feedback is developed through analysing a number of teaching strategies which enable the production of self-generated feedback. These include: student peer review of work-in-progress (Nicol 2020); using exemplars as proxies for teacher feedback (Carless 2020); and embedding feedback requests within the curriculum to enable students to seek feedback on self-identified issues (Malecka, Boud & Carless 2020).
Within this framework, the teacher role is to design learning environments which provide students opportunities to produce self-generated feedback. For purposeful implementation, teachers require digital literacies, feedback literacies and capacities to coach students in participating productively. The interplay between teacher and student feedback literacies will be discussed.

Boud, D. & Molloy, E. (2013). Decision-making for feedback. In D. Boud & E. Molloy (Eds.), Feedback in higher and professional education. London: Routledge.
Carless, D. (2020). From teacher transmission of information to student feedback literacy: Activating the learner role in feedback processes. Active Learning in Higher Education.
Malecka, B. Boud, D. & Carless, D. (2020). Eliciting, processing and enacting feedback: Mechanisms for embedding feedback literacy within the curriculum. Teaching in Higher Education.
Nicol, D. (2020) The power of internal feedback: Exploiting natural comparison processes. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education.
Sadler, D. R. (2010). Beyond feedback: Developing student capability in complex appraisal. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 35 (5): 535-550.


David Carless is Professor of Educational Assessment at the Faculty of Education, University of Hong Kong, and a Principal Fellow of Advance HE. His signature publication is the book Excellence in University Assessment: Learning from Award-winning Practice (2015, Routledge). He was the winner of a University Outstanding Teaching Award in 2016. His current research focuses on teacher and student feedback literacy to enhance the impact of feedback processes. His most recent book, Designing effective feedback processes in higher education: A learning-focused approach, co-authored with Naomi Winstone was published by Routledge in July 2019. Further details of his work are on his website:

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