Thirsty for a Strong Instructional Practice?
Giving students feedback on their writing is one of the most important ways that we can individualize instruction. It can be easy to lose sight of this, however, when we are confronted with a stack of student papers and feel pressure to focus our comments on justifying a grade.
Separating the grading and commenting aspects of giving feedback by using a rubric or grade sheet that allows you to simply identify qualities of the paper that relate to the grade and reserving your comments on the paper for giving feedback that will help the student improve their writing or thinking. Here are some tips to help you individualize the instruction you give in your feedback:
- Just as you would in the classroom, don’t try to teach your student everything at once. On one paper, you might focus your comments on only two or three things, such as a particular pattern of error, a logical flaw in reasoning, and suggestions for developing support for the argument.
- Comment on strengths as well as weaknesses. For example, you might commend a student for using strong source material, and then make a comment on how to better integrate it into the paper.
- As frustrating as grammar, punctuation, and mechanics errors are to us, correcting those errors in our students’ papers does not help our students learn to stop making those errors. You can save yourself a lot of time by NOT marking all those errors and instead writing a comment such as, “I noticed many sentence structure errors in this paper. I marked them in the first paragraph. Please take this paper to the Writing Center to work with a tutor on sentence structure.” (FYI, here’s the Writing Center’s website: http://msudenver.edu/writectr/.
- Consider giving feedback in a form other than writing. For example, some students respond better to feedback that is recorded. You can easily record feedback using a free app like TinyVox (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/tinyvox-pro-voice-memos-for/id401071992?mt=8) or free software like Audacity (http://sourceforge.net/projects/audacity/).
Still thirsty? Take another SIP of Manageable and Instructional Written Feedback
- “Tips for Commenting on Student Writing” from the Teaching Center at Washington University: http://teachingcenter.wustl.edu/strategies/Pages/commenting-on-writing.aspx#.VTcK2iHBzGc
- “Responding to Student Writing” from the Harvard Writing Project: http://writingproject.fas.harvard.edu/pages/responding-student-writing
- “Kinds of Comments to Make on Student Papers”: https://www.quinnipiac.edu/prebuilt/pdf/wac/database_comments_student_papers_0811.pdf
- “Audio Recording Feedback for Students”: http://teaching.nmc.edu/?p=2332