How to talk to your instructor and provide feedback

Feedback is an essential part of the learning experience for both students and instructors and is a necessary part of the course. Your feedback helps your instructor understand your experience and improves the course. The University also has a set of course expectations that will help you understand what you can anticipate in your courses.

Providing feedback may be intimidating or challenging for a number of reasons – including the fact that instructors are ultimately responsible for providing your grades. With this in mind, here are a few strategies when contacting your instructor.

 7 tips for talking to your instructor

  • Contact your instructor through the information they provided in the course syllabus instead of looking for an email address online
  • Remember that your instructor is likely also adjusting to an online learning environment, so it can be helpful to approach the conversation from a place of curiosity and openness rather than accusation
  • Use “I” statements to describe your experience and the impact it’s had rather than “You” statements that may be more accusatory
  • If you plan on writing an email, it may be helpful to have a friend or support person read over it before clicking send to make sure the email conveys what you hope
  • If you plan on meeting in person, it may be helpful to write out key points and questions as a reference guide for the conversation and review/practice them with someone you’re comfortable with before the meeting
  • If you’re concerned about the direction the conversation may go, ask your instructor if they’re comfortable with you bringing someone with you for support.
  • Remember that participating in a conversation is both talking and listening – listen openly to what the instructor has to say, even if you don’t fully agree

Feedback should be constructive and meaningful

Feedback should be constructive in nature. Constructive feedback involves letting an instructor know what you enjoy about the course and any concerns you have, but provides suggestions on what could specifically be improved from your perspective.

Be respectful and constructive. All members of the university community have the right to a respectful and supportive learning environment and have the responsibility to help create such an environment. Communications to instructors should demonstrate respect and have a constructive tone. It is not acceptable to make comments based on gender, age or identity of the instructor. The University of Victoria will not tolerate racism, sexualized violence, or any form of discrimination, bullying or harassment (Learn More)

Be specific and provide examples. Avoid personal comments and instead reference specific events or aspects of the course and observable behaviours. For example, instead of saying an instructor or course is “too disorganized” provide specifics, such as “On two occasions, what was shared in class was different than what was on the syllabus which made it difficult to prepare.

Describe how this aspect of the course or the behaviour affects you.  Describing how a situation makes you feel offers the reader a different perspective and allows the instructor to gain a better understanding of the situation.

Offer alternative solutions or suggestions to address your critiques. Although it may not be possible to provide these specific solutions, it can help the instructor understand more about what students need in the course. Please be mindful that your suggestions and feedback may not be implemented by the instructor, as it may not be possible or appropriate based on the breadth of needs of students in the class.

Formal opportunities to give feedback

For a given course, an instructor may ask you to provide feedback in different ways. Your participation in providing feedback is essential for helping to create a good learning experience.

For example, consider providing feedback at the following times:

  • Midterm feedback. During the course, some instructors may ask you to complete a mid-course feedback survey or similar activity to find out what is going well, any challenges you are encountering
  • End of term feedback. Courses at UVic use Course Experience Surveys (CES). By reviewing information submitted in the CES, instructors and the university are able to use feedback to help improve the student experience.

Additional sources of support

Keep in mind that you can only control how you approach/carry yourself in a conversation and can’t control how someone else responds. If you feel you’ve been treated unfairly, you may want to consider reaching out to the department chair or the UVic Ombudsperson for support.

In some instances, your concerns about an instructor may not be safe or appropriate to bring forward to the instructor themselves – e.g. instances of potential discrimination. Please know that there are campus resources, like the Equity & Human Rights Office, that can provide support in these circumstances.


  1. Ory, J. & Braskamp, L. (1981). Faculty perceptions of the quality of three types of evaluative information. Research in Higher Education, 15(3), p. 271-282.
  2. Adapted from: Svinicki, M.D. (2001). Encouraging your students to give feedback. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 87, 17-24.
  3. Donovan, J., Mader, C., & Shinsky, J. (2010). Constructive student feedback: Online vs. traditional course evaluations. Journal of Interactive Online Learning9(3), p. 283-296.

Adapted from: McGill University and York University

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