Sticky Note Student Feedback

Sep 17, 2023

How can we support students in revising their thinking and providing feedback to each other as they figure out a phenomenon? Through sticky note student feedback, students can add or change ideas, evidence, and questions to developing models or explanations. Sentence frames and feedback norms can help students learn how to provide feedback in productive ways.

Teaching Considerations

Here, we share a general flow and set of tips for implementing sticky note student feedback in the classroom. Of course, the first time you implement this process, it may look a bit different and take longer as students grapple with each other’s work and distinctions between helpful and not-so-helpful feedback for the first time

Tip 1: Planning: Decide when the class’s work is at a useful stage for feedback. This process is most productive when a set of student work is rich with multiple ideas and ways of thinking (not identical). Students should also be able to draw on prior activities and investigations as evidence when considering each other’s work. It can be productive to engage in feedback around models or explanations mid-way through a unit or near the end of a unit, since students will have multiple sources of evidence to draw on.

Tip 2: Have students post their work (~5 min). Work can be taped or pinned on walls or cabinets, or placed on otherwise clear desks.

Tip 3: Introduce the activity – discuss key feedback purposes, characteristics, and processes (~10-15 min). 

  • Take a few minutes to share and have students share why it is helpful to look at each other’s thinking and to give and receive feedback. Highlight this as a practice of science, where scientists peer-review each other’s findings. 
    • First time tip: You may want to record these ideas publicly for future reference.
    • If you have a list of ideas from previous feedback sessions, consider revisiting these and inviting any additions or changes as students gain experience giving and receiving feedback.
  • Review examples of helpful and not-so-helpful feedback together. Use the examples to have the class describe characteristics that make a piece of feedback helpful or not-so-helpful. Below is an example of “Helpful” and “Nice, but not helpful” feedback using content from a 4th-grade circuits unit, to see what this could look like. We suggest writing example feedback for specific units that showcase features you want students to consider. (For instance, helpful feedback is specific and actionable.)

Examples of helpful feedback and nice but not helpful feedback. One example shown of helpful feedback is: We can see you're thinking about the acid and metal inside the battery, but how does that reaction help the electric energy bump? One example of Nice, but not helpful feedback shown is: Your diagram has lots of colors! I really like your science drawing.

    • First time tip: To help draw students’ attention to key features, you may want to group the helpful and not so helpful examples yourself. Ask students to consider what they see in the examples, and what is similar and different between the groups. 
    • In later feedback sessions, students could group the examples and explain why they are helpful or not so helpful.
  • Introduce or review feedback sentence stems and processes for sharing feedback via sticky notes. Sentence stems can help students identify particular parts of their peers’ work and ask questions or make suggestions. 

Sentence frames: I appreciate how you __. It would be clearer if you added __. I see you're thinking about __. Do you think you should add __? The writing said that __. We disagree and think you should change __. We agree that __. But you could add evidence about __.How to add new ideas to the initial model through using sticky notes to see how ideas change over time. This can include a sticky notes for a changed idea, new idea, remove this idea, and questions I have.

  • Different colored sticky notes could reflect different kinds of suggestions (like proposing a new idea, or asking a question). Ensure students have access to the characteristics of helpful feedback, sentence stems, and sticky notes before they begin.
    • First time tip: Consider having students practice giving feedback with the stems on a sample piece of work and discuss how their feedback is helpful and could be more helpful. Or begin by having students place notes on their own work that reflect the kind of feedback they would like to receive.

Tip 4: Students circulate and give feedback (~15 min). Have students travel in pairs or groups and work together to examine 2 to 3 samples of their peers’ work, leaving at least 2 or 3 sticky notes with feedback at each piece of work. You could organize this in two ways:

  • Timed feedback: If you would like a more orderly progression, you can give students 5 minutes at each work sample before calling time and having students move in one direction to the next piece of work. This helps to ensure all work gets at least 2 or 3 sticky notes with feedback. This approach may be helpful for the first few times engaging in the sticky note feedback process.
  • Milling around: Students can move about as they are ready, but if a spot looks crowded they must find another spot. This releases responsibility to the students to manage their time and be mindful that all work gets feedback. This method usually results in more feedback for each piece of work since students work at their own pace.

Tip 5: Return and respond to feedback (~10 min). Students read and consider the feedback they received, deciding what to do in response. They may add or change something about their work, taking up the suggestions of their peers. However, they may also leave a sticky note to return to later (i.e., if it asks a question they are not sure of yet), or they may counter a suggestion if they disagree and clarify the point in their work.

Tip 6: Reflect on the feedback and process (~5 min). Did any group get any particularly helpful feedback? Provide some time to acknowledge this and point out what was helpful. In an example protocol below, high schoolers were invited to interact around the entire feedback process, including consideration of the quality of their feedback. On one sheet of paper, “reviewers” first provided feedback in the form of a question in the upper left. Original authors reviewed the feedback and responded on the right side, then reviewers considered authors’ responses to determine whether their feedback was effective.

A diagram of an example peer feedback protocol developed by teachers and coaches at Evergreen Campus, Highline Public Schools (Seattle, WA) in collaboration with the University of Washington. The reviewer asks the peer a question, reads the response and answers if it was effective and how/what the evidence is that it is, and asks any follow up questions. The author answers the question in detail, responds how they would change or revise their model based on the question asked, and adds the changes to their model.


Supporting students in giving useful feedback to each other can position students as central sources and arbiters of ideas in the science classroom, encouraging students to be curious and critical of each other’s ideas. This can help disrupt traditional power relations in the classroom, with the teacher primarily organizing the activity and supporting students.

Questions to consider when trying on sticky note student feedback:

  • How can this feedback process be used to support students’ everyday ways of thinking about and experiencing a phenomenon? To create a culture of honoring peers’ ideas in a science classroom?
  • How might this process make science more accessible to students? In what ways might the process either reify western forms of science or value multiple forms of science, and how might we design for the latter?
  • How can we modify this approach to support students with language or physical ability needs?
  • How can this process serve as a tool to advance social justice in and beyond the classroom?


Developing Understandings and Impacts of Feedback in 4th Grade. Although students may not like giving detailed or specific feedback at first, it only takes doing this once for them to return to their own work crestfallen because they didn’t get any meaningful or helpful feedback – and they got angry about that! It helps to debrief and get these feelings out in the room so that next time we recognize how our effort (or lack thereof) affects others in our learning community. Students can also voice their needs as participants in this space as they may not be sure how to give more specific or useful feedback (Carolyn Colley, science coach).

A model of processes at work when a person does a backflip after running up a wall and pushing off it. The model has sticky notes with feedback on the model which includes connections to learning from activities the class had done.

Improving a High School Physics Model. In a high school physics classroom studying force and motion, the teacher had students model processes at work as a young man did a backflip after running up to a wall and pushing off of it. A group drew the man at five different stages of the run, as shown in the model here. Partway through the unit, the teacher had students leave sticky note feedback on each other’s earlier models, including connections to learnings from activities the class had done. One of the orange sticky notes here added an idea about the role of the type of surface and friction, based on a station they had engaged with that explored different surfaces. This supported the group who constructed the model to make changes that reflected more of what they had learned about friction!

Teacher Educators & Professional Learning



Invite teachers to think through a continuum of how to support student-student discourse and feedback throughout the year. For example, teachers may start with A/B partner talk, then progress to peer feedback strategies. This often supports teachers and students in developing strong discussion norms. 

In your TE courses or PL, you may want to use these slides on supporting students in revising models to help teachers consider why modeling and model revision are important in science.  Below are videos to support teacher learning. 


  • For elementary teachers, this video in a 4th-grade classroom shows Carolyn modeling using sticky note feedback during gallery walks, as well as facilitating a conversation about how to give instructive feedback. (7 minutes)
  • If you need to support elementary teachers in envisioning how to establish discourse norms at the beginning of the year, this video could be fruitful. (7 minutes)


  • For secondary teachers, the last video in a middle school series shows Anna supporting students in revising ideas with sticky notes. (12 minutes with teacher interview) 
  • If you want to extend teacher learning about revising ideas, consider this video on peer feedback. You could have teachers analyze the ways students provide feedback to one another and reflect on the types of tools and experiences necessary to support this type of dialogue. (4 minutes)



Collaboratively Improving Feedback Processes in Schools. I had opportunities to partner with several school science teams that were seeking to improve how students gave and made use of feedback in their science classes. It was so powerful to work on this collaboratively across classrooms and schools! When teachers tried out different approaches and brought back artifacts and experiences from their specific contexts, we were all able to learn more about what might facilitate feedback and for whom, across diverse settings (Jen Richards, Research Assistant Professor at Northwestern University).


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This site is primarily funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through Award #1907471 and #1315995