Feedback seeking

Feedback seeking involves purposely seeking information about one’s performance, interpreting it and applying it for enhancement purposes. When learners are pro-actively requesting comments that meet their needs and interests, they are exerting agency and are primed for uptake of feedback information. Feedback seeking represents the eliciting function of feedback literacy. Feedback literate learners are proactive in eliciting suggestions from peers or teachers and continuing dialogue with them as needed (Carless & Boud, 2018). Learners with well-developed feedback literacy do not wait passively for others to provide information; and use a wide repertoire of elicitation strategies (Molloy et al., 2020).

Feedback seeking can be either in writing, orally or both. For example, learners can state in written form which aspects of a particular assignment they would most like feedback on; and this can be combined with some form of reflective self-evaluation (e.g. Winstone & Carless, 2019, chapter 6). Learners can also make tutorial appointments or approach teachers to clarify expectations or elicit feedback on work in progress. Importantly, high achievers in all walks of life are generally avid feedback seekers: it seems to be a high leverage strategy.

For various reasons, many learners seem to eschew feedback seeking. They worry about exposing their weaknesses; they fear being judged or having their self-image disturbed; procrastination and deadline fighting often hinder feedback seeking; and learners may not be convinced that their busy teachers really have time to respond to their queries. Teachers sometimes worry that supporting those who request help could be inequitable or unfair to those who work independently.

How might teachers promote feedback seeking? They can try to create learning cultures where feedback seeking is the norm. They might develop the relationships in which feedback exchanges can thrive. They can model some of their own feedback seeking strategies e.g. in preparing draft manuscripts for publication. A key challenge is that those students most in need of support (e.g. lower achievers) are probably less likely to request it, reinforcing arguments that empirical research on feedback for lower achievers is sorely needed.

Feedback seeking strategies, facilitators and challenges represent fertile territory. Watch this space …


Carless, D., & D. Boud. 2018. “The Development of Student Feedback Literacy: Enabling Uptake of Feedback.” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 43 (8): 1315–1325.

Molloy, E., D. Boud, & M. Henderson. 2020. “Developing a Learning-Centred Framework for Feedback Literacy.” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 45 (4): 527–540.

Winstone, N. & D. Carless. 2019. Designing Effective Feedback Processes in Higher Education: A Learning-Focused Approach. London: Routledge.