I have recently completed a course where a very large assignment was handed in just before the exam. After the course finished, we were never given feedback on this assignment. I am very frustrated about this because, even though I can see my grade and that I did well, it means nothing to me--I pay tuition so that I can learn and not so that I can get a grade. I have emailed the professor and have not received a response. I have also emailed my program's coordinator and she has told me that she has "no leverage with other departments and their profs". If it is of any value, the course was in Psychology.

I see this as a business transaction. I have paid the university for the service of teaching me. The professor is made responsible by the university to teach me. Teaching requires providing feedback. Therefore, if the professor is not providing feedback, the university is not fulfilling their part of the business transaction.

What are the professor's obligations with respect to my education once I have been put in his class?

How should I deal with this? The professor does not answer emails and I've never been fortunate enough to run into him at his office.

Edit: I've trimmed unnecessary information.

  • 2
    It's entirely possible that your instructor has other things going on after the course is over, not to mention the fact that giving you feedback on a large project via email is not an efficient use of time. Just go by his office once classes are back in session again to arrange a meeting.
    – Mad Jack
    Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 2:30
  • 1
    @MadJack It is not just me, no one in the class received feedback of any kind. All we got was a grade. Am I odd for finding this upsetting and unprofessional? Many of my peers are completely okay with this. I think education should be more about feedback and less about a grade.
    – Klik
    Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 3:49
  • 15
    "I see this as a business transaction." And there's your first issue: it's not. "Teaching requires providing feedback." And there's your second issue. You got your score, you know you did well. That's feedback. Now if you had specified good teaching, then the appropriate requirement is useful feedback.
    – Nij
    Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 5:13
  • 5
    Did you get feedback on the exam apart from a grade? It's not much different from that. And even if you treat the course like a "business transaction," business transactions involve agreements, and I highly doubt part of the agreement of you paying tuition was that every instructor would provide you with detailed feedback on every assignment.
    – Kimball
    Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 9:45
  • @Nij how is this not a business transaction? The university makes a lot of money from tuition. That's why they advertise and try to get as many applicants every year as possible. It is a business that exchanges money for services.
    – Klik
    Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 13:50

4 Answers 4


Giving good feedback is good practice. However, people working at the university have multiple responsibilities and they need to make trade-offs. So it is very well possible that your professor made a legitimate choice, we don't know and neither do you. Moreover, professors have substantial freedom in making those trade-offs. So there is very little you can do to force him to give feedback. Trying that will certainly back-fire. Instead, your best bet is to politely ask for an appointment, and be flexible about when that appointment takes place.

  • I tried the polite "ask for an appointment approach" but he doesn't respond to student emails. I have also never seen him at his office.
    – Klik
    Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 13:41
  • Does he have a secretary? Making an appointment through him/her might work. Other than that I think you are out of luck. You are very unlikely to be able to force him to give you feedback. Even if you could, you can only get good feedback if he wants to. If you force him, than he will probably give you minimalist feedback to get this annoyance over with not to help you learn. Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 15:08

There are two types of assessment: formative and summative. Formative assessment is part of the teaching and learning process and feedback is a critical component. Summative assessment is not really part of the learning process, but rather is designed to assess the learning outcomes. In this respect, feedback, or more specifically, qualitative feedback, is not needed with summative assessment.

The requirements on providing feedback can vary across universities and even departments within a university. Sometimes instructors are required to give feedback on both formative and summative assessment, sometimes only on formative assessment, and sometimes never at all.


To answer your question, the teacher's obligation depends on the institution, and the country where you're studying, and on the bargaining agreement that the academic entered into when they where hired (their contract).

I understand that you want to receive useful feedback as part of your learning process to improve your skills and I'd be as upset as you if I were in your situation, but if you've already talked to the program coordinator and she says there's nothing she can do, then enquire somewhere else. Are you truly interested in the obligations of the instructor, or is the feedback actually what you want? If it's the former, your university or college should have a Dean of Academics or related department in charge of teaching and learning excellence and perhaps they can point you in the right direction. If it's a matter of principle for you, try to get your hands on the bargaining agreement (contract) and read the whole thing.

If all you want is the feedback, you might have to live with the fact that this instructor is just a shitty teacher and won't give you feedback. It's very common, especially in undergraduate courses that students 'just want a grade to find out how they did' at least this is my experience, so feedback may not be given for the last assessments, or if it is, it's very minimal. "Why did I get the grade that I did?" is probably the best question to ask the instructor, and if they're not around to answer that question, go up the chain, department chair, Dean of school, Provost, until you get that answer. With that being said, many instructors' roles are made up of more than just teaching, so if they're not around, you might have to wait to meet with them. Honestly, this route might raise your blood pressure more than anything, so if this instructor wasn't that good, just get the feedback from somewhere else. Ask to meet with another instructor in the department, or a graduate student perhaps, or go to your university's writing lab or tutoring center and have someone go through your assignment with you. Regardless of what grade you got, they'll still be able to provide you with some useful feedback.

The important thing is that you get the feedback you need to improve your skills. Whether that SHOULD come from your instructor isn't productive for you, so go find someone who is willing to help, file a grievance or a complaint against the instructor for not doing what most instructors consider to be their job, but don't get too upset about it. You're right, education is a transaction, but unfortunately, many institutions including the one you're enrolled in, may not agree with you 100% on the nature of that transaction - some schools just care how many students graduate per year, it doesn't matter if those students learned anything or not.


Generally no.

Professors are bound by their contract to the institution and by the contract they have with students usually through some written course outline or course description. Every contract I know forces the instructor to give a final mark in a timely manner, but I do not know of any of these containing a broad clause forcing instructors to give detailed feedbacks on assignments (there may be individual exceptions). Our contract states that a certain fraction if the total grade must be assigned before the withdraw date, but nothing more precise than this.

In practice forcing a specific type of feedback would be difficult to implement since the teaching styles and course contents are so variable.

Usually students have a formal right to review final examinations and appeal their marks, but this is a very hassle-full path to getting some feedbacks.

The practical recourse of students is to formally complain to the chair/head of unit. The cumulative effects of these complaint may lead to changes - the chair might eventually require that the course description mention detailed feedbacks - or might lead to a change of teaching assignments or denied promotion or salary increases but this is very rare. Tenured faculty have academic freedom, which means they are given very broad autonomy as to the contents and evaluation methods in the courses they are assigned.

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