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Written feedback can sometimes feel like climbing a never-ending mountain. The pile of papers to grade is stacked high, and if you plan on writing anything of substance for your students as you grade them, you already know that it will take hours to get through. However, to help you bring the light at the end of the tunnel closer and closer, it may help to know…. Written feedback is one of the most important things you can provide for your students. Why? Let’s talk about it…
The Purpose of Written Feedback
The grade students receive for work they have submitted may be the most important thing to them. However, the real opportunity for growth comes from the feedback. Written feedback allows you, the educator, to give students individualized comments and suggestions that are just not possible in any other method. One on one conferences are rarely long enough to give comprehensive feedback, let alone the practicality of setting aside enough time for conferences for every student, for every major assignment. This is where written feedback surpasses other feedback channels.
How Written Feedback Aids Learning
Written feedback allows students to use their own work to analyze their mistakes, learn, and grow from errors specific to them. In place of analyzing generic errors in a text book, written feedback permits students can explore their own errors, as well as look for repeated issues which all lead toward a better chance of avoiding them in the future and a higher probability of self-correction. These qualities, of course, lead to a more proficient English speaker.
Types of Feedback
There are 4 main types of feedback that you can provide for your students. Each type has its own function and prescribed time of usage for maximum effectiveness.
Direct and Specific Corrections
This is the type of feedback that points out a student’s error and/or explains how to fix it.
These types of comments can be used to make observations about your students’ writing and/or to point out whether or not your students have satisfied requirements from the assignment’s rubric. They are also helpful for being the middle ground between direct and specific corrections and positive statements; too much of either is not a good thing.
This type of feedback goes a long way in eliciting more from your students, especially for writing assignments. Rhetorical questions allow you to point out ways that students can expand their thinking/writing/mind/etc.
This type of feedback allows you to point out what your students are doing right.
How to use these Types Effectively
First, be selective in your comments and written feedback. Some students may have more errors than correct pieces to their work. It’s not only impractical to try to address every error, it may also do more harm than good to point out too many errors. Without some positive statement feedback, or at least some descriptive observations, receiving only direct and specific corrections in large numbers can be damaging to the students’ morale. It may lead the student to feel as though giving up their language learning goals is easier than pushing through the overwhelming negativity to trying to understand where they went wrong.
Second, the most effective way to provide written feedback in the “sandwich method.” The sandwich method allows you to use all 4 types of feedback in a specific order to best reach its intended audience for its intended purpose. You should begin with positive statements that highlight your students’ strengths. Then, you may introduce the more negative comments by using direct and specific corrections and/or descriptive observations. Finally, you want to end your written feedback with suggestions for how your students can build upon the foundation they created in this submission. Urge them to think bigger. This can be done by using rhetorical questions.
Written feedback can sometimes feel incredibly daunting and one of your least favorites requirements as an educator. Writing feedback of substance takes time, but there is most certainly a way of using it most effectively for your students. Because of its unique characteristics, written feedback is one of the most important things you can provide for your students. It allows you to give your students customized observations and recommendations that are just not possible in any other mode. It allows students to use their own work as a guide to examine their own mistakes; a way to learn and grow from errors specific to them. Written feedback provides a higher probability of your student avoiding repeated mistakes and errors in the future, as well as a greater likelihood of self-correction… all of which lead to a more proficient English speaker. The four main types of feedback, direct and specific corrections, descriptive observations, rhetorical questions, and positive statements, each serve their own purpose and should be used in a specific order and ration to one another. Furthermore, the most effective method of using written feedback is the “sandwich method” that allows you to use positive, negative, and thought expanding feedback for your students.