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Mathematics | Science/STEAM | Teaching Strategies | February 5, 2024

Giving Friendly Feedback in the Design Process

Giving and receiving feedback is a valuable skill and a process that can improve student work. Help students understand the benefits of and process for providing peer feedback with a step-by-step activity and downloadable feedback stems for students.

What is Feedback?

Feedback provides students with recommendations to improve their work. In a classroom, feedback can come from teachers or from peers. Feedback can be considered a type of assessment. Depending on the type and timing of feedback, it can either be productive or counterproductive for student success.

The Benefits of Friendly Feedback

Allowing students the opportunity to give and receive feedback from others enables them to assume greater ownership of their work and provides students with a valuable skill for lifelong learning. During any kind of activity or project, friendly feedback can be given. This is especially true for design projects, where students can help peers improve their ideas, designs, and models in constructive, noncritical ways.

A Friendly Feedback Activity

Guiding and modeling effective feedback and allowing time for students to practice giving different types of feedback set the stage for more productive classroom dialogue. Here is an activity to do with students that allows them to practice friendly feedback before giving it on a real project.

TCM_DL_FriendlyFeedbackSentenceStems-650x520-2Defining Friendly Feedback

Explain to students that friendly feedback means “offering helpful comments about someone’s work without being critical of the person or the work.” Explain that the most useful feedback is kind, specific, and clear. Discuss with students that the purpose of providing feedback is to help others improve an idea, draft, or design in a meaningful and encouraging way. Invite students to share experiences they’ve had either giving or receiving feedback. Encourage them to connect types of feedback with how they impacted their work or performance.

3 Types of Feedback

Explain to students that they may provide three different types of peer feedback: clarifying, warm, and cool.

Sentence stems are beneficial because they provide scaffolding to students. These cues provide a structure for writing or for speaking in complete, coherent sentences. They can be excellent conversation starters. They are beneficial to all students, but can be particularly helpful to English learners and students who need additional support.

Review the sample feedback stems together and discuss the differences between each type of feedback.

Clarifying Feedback

Can you explain _______________________________ ?

Why did you choose to ________________________ ?

How did you _________________________________ ?

Tell me more about _________________________ .

Warm Feedback

I like _______ because ___________________________ .

It is interesting that ______________________________ .

_______ is a good idea because ___________________ .

Cool Feedback

Have you thought about _____________________?

I wonder if _________________________________ .

You might want to try ________________________ .

Have you considered __________________________ ?

Feedback Stems for Students

Divide the class into pairs or small groups. Ask students to create an additional sentence stem for each type of feedback. Invite students to share their stems with the class.


Model providing friendly feedback for students. Deliver examples of both vague, nonspecific feedback and effective feedback. For example, use the sentences, “It was a bad design,” and, “You might try adding more weight to the base to keep it from moving.” Have students discuss the differences between the comments and why the latter is more effective.

Use Active Listening

Discuss with students how active listening is an important part of receiving feedback. Explain that active listening means paying close attention to the feedback. Explain that the person or group receiving feedback should only respond when they are asked a question.


Encourage students to use the sentence stems while providing feedback to their peers. Write the types of feedback with possible sentence starters on chart paper, and post it in the classroom for students to reference during projects.


After practicing with feedback stems for students, incorporate peer review with student projects utilizing the design process. An ideal resource for design and feedback can be found in the hands-on STEAM activities in Smithsonian STEAM Readers. Created in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution, this dynamic series engages students with high-interest readers that highlight all aspects of STEAM: science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics. The hands-on activities demonstrate ways that the engineering design process is used to solve real-world problems.


Invite students to consider ways that the peer review process and friendly feedback has helped them to improve their projects or their learning. If possible, demonstrate ways that feedback helps improve student performance. You can also encourage students to reflect on ways that giving and receiving feedback helps them develop valuable skills that can be applied both inside and outside the classroom. Develop a class resource that includes the feedback stems for students generated by this activity for future reference.

Peer friendly feedback is particularly powerful when applied to student projects utilizing the design process, but can be utilized in many classroom situations. Help students improve their work and hone valuable skills as they give and receive friendly feedback with understanding, feedback stems, modeling, practice, and reflection.



Author Bio:

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Sara Johnson, Educational Consultant

Sara Johnson, M.S.Ed., is a former elementary school teacher. She joined Teacher Created Materials to help create professional resources and curriculum for students worldwide. After overseeing the Shell Education imprint of TCM for nearly 6 years, she joined the Marketing team, where she supported the department as the educator's voice and led their philanthropic outreach efforts. She is now an educational consultant, supporting teachers through professional development and coaching.

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