Providing Feedback Students Will Respond To
When it comes to grading student essays, English teachers are always looking for a way to streamline the grading process while still giving students meaningful and effective feedback. Most teachers spend years developing a system that works for them—and years after that figuring out how to improve upon that system. The goals? To make their feedback more comprehensive. To make it more engaging. To see students actually improve their writing. And to grade faster and more effectively.
If your goal is to engage your students in a more effective manner with top-notch feedback, consider the following ideas:
Keep Your Feedback Focused
Consider each assignment as a piece of a larger picture of writing improvement. Over the length of your entire course, you’ll have a list of goals you want to cover—but there’s no need to rush to cover them all on every assignment. For example, create an assignment that focuses solely on clarity and tell students that they will be expected to look at elements of clarity when revising assignments. For an even more focused assignment, choose elements of clarity such as passive voice and the use of the verb “to be.” With an extremely focused skill set, students are less likely to become overwhelmed by the editing process.
Ask Both Guided and Open-Ended Questions
Preventing students from glossing over comments or skipping them altogether is another challenging task you might face as an English teacher. One way to combat this is to write suggestions and comments in the form of questions. You may or may not require students to answer your notes directly, but chances are a question will at least cause them to pause and think for a moment. For instance, you may want to focus on developing an argument. Rather than writing “evidence” or “support this” as a comment, direct the focus of the student and ask “What specific example could you use to support this?” or “What anecdote could you provide to support this claim?”
Use Personal Pronouns
In an effort to expedite the grading process, a tendency to use symbols and short phrases while grading is enticing. Ordinarily, the thought of engaging in a conversation via editing seems even more tedious than grading itself, but with the advent of computers, the potential for writing more and longer comments is not as daunting. Think about the entire series of comments as a conversation between you and the student. In this way, you can also integrate questions, praise, and constructive criticism. Requiring students to respond to you in the form of a conversation will help encourage editing.
Give Concrete Suggestions
Or options! Unless students make very obvious errors or have failed to address something you have covered multiple times, editing has the potential be daunting and confusing. Give students an example of the changes you would like or options for how to approach problems. With very specific direction, students may be more likely to create revisions—or ask for help!
Feedback Assistance with WriteLab
The feedback features in WriteLab can go a long way in facilitating positive student response to comments on their work. You can require students to make all of the edits suggested by WriteLab before submitting a draft to you. Then, you can use the notes feature in WriteLab to create additional comments for your students. Another option is to create a dialogue with your students first and have them address your comments before addressing the Concision, Clarity, Logic and Grammar recommendations and insights offered by WriteLab.