How to use feedback to your advantage

Have you ever submitted an essay or project that you were so sure would meet your professor’s expectations, only to get it back with lots of notes and a lower grade than you were hoping for?

We’ve all been there. Receiving and reviewing feedback from your teaching assistants (TAs) and instructors is a regular part of the university experience.

Why pay attention to feedback?

Feedback encourages self-reflection.

Feedback is not a critique of you as a person; it's a constructive critique of your work. As a Teaching Assistant and Peer Success Coach, my advice to you is to think of feedback as a mirror: in academia, feedback is a reflection that shows you areas where you shine and spots that need some polish. Reviewing feedback can be the bridge between where you are and where you want to be.

Tip: Even when feedback seems harsh, confusing, or vague, focus on what you can take away from it. If you need help making sense of feedback you receive, reach out to your TA or instructor. Use our simple and impactful phrases to use for help in university for support.

Feedback identifies precise areas of improvement.

Your instructor or TA may use parts of your work to show you what you’re doing well, and where you need to develop your knowledge. 

For example, you might receive a comment that says: “I’m not sure how this example connects to your main idea.” Your next step should be to look at how you’ve written about the example and how you’ve explained its connection to your paper’s main idea or thesis to improve your next assignment.

Feedback can tell you which skills you need to sharpen.

For example, you might receive feedback that tells you to review in-class quizzes or specific articles from your textbook readings. However, you haven’t had time to read your textbook. To apply the feedback, you might think about how to build in time in your schedule to read the textbook.

Tip: If you need additional feedback on how to build discipline-specific skills, read Teaching assistants (TAs) are here to help! 

Feedback can help you set goals to align your efforts to course expectations.

If you receive feedback that the questions you had difficulty answering were like questions covered in group activities during in-class lectures, you should set a goal to attend and participate in in-class lectures more frequently.

Tip: Check out why attend classes (it’s more than just showing up) to learn more. 

It can be stressful to go through the feedback, especially for assignments that you did not feel were your best. If you need someone to hold you accountable to reading feedback or support as you go through it, book an appointment with a Peer Success Coach.