Getting adult learners involved in peer- feedback for writing

So, today’s post is about using peer- feedback in the classroom. This post was originally written for the TESOL Greece Newsletter (issue 127) and since I will be doing peer feedback with my learners on Monday as part of my academic writing class, I thought it would be a  good idea to share that article here as well. So, let’s talk about peer feedback.

Feedback is a way for teachers to make suggestions on students’ written work and help their learners improve (Harmer, 2013). An alternative way to give feedback for writing is to get the students to peer-review and offer feedback. Peer-assessment does not replace traditional assessment but it does enhance the learning process (Topping 1998, cited in Peng).  But before moving on, what exactly is peer-assessment? It is:

an arrangement in which individuals consider the amount, level, value, worth, quality, or success of the products or outcomes of learning of peers of similar status.

                                          (Topping, 1998, cited in Peng 2010)

This feedback method works well with all learners, but especially adults. Therefore, getting learners to provide peer-feedback in an EAP, Business or any other type of English lesson aimed at adults is very beneficial. This article discusses why peer-feedback for writing can play an integral part in the everyday classroom routine and makes suggestions regarding different tasks a teacher ca use in class in order to encourage peer-feedback.

Why Peer-feedback?

There are many reasons why a teacher should encourage adult learners to give peer-feedback. Firstly, it promotes active learning as learners have to think about another student’s work. It helps build trust among students and is also a way to get students to co-operate and collaborate.

Why not peer-feedback?

It may affect the ‘balance’ between the teacher and the learner                                    (Gardner, 2000) as traditionally it is the teacher who provides the feedback and not the learner. The learners may not feel comfortable or may even feel unwilling to mark other students’ work. They might also be too generous and do ‘friendly marking’ which means that they are more interested in the fact that they are marking their friends’ work and not so much in the actual feedback.

While all these are quite ‘valid’ reasons why a teacher might avoid peer-feedback in the classroom, surely with lots of training, good monitoring on behalf of the teacher, and a constant reminder of why peer-feedback is necessary and how helpful it can be, both the learners and the teacher can benefit a lot from using the alternative feedback method.

Tasks that promote peer-feedback

There are lots of tasks that can be used in the language classroom in order to get the students to peer-assess. As the purpose of the article is to promote peer-feedback among adults, the activities chosen, are more appropriate for mature learners.

Using rubrics/checklists

When a teacher first introduces the idea of peer-feedback, it is essential that this is done in a more controlled manner. The teacher can make a checklist or provide rubrics according to which the student gives feedback to his/her classmate’s work. If the group is quite weak, instead of providing feedback on grammar, learners could be asked to check if their classmate has a thesis statement or if there is a main idea in each paragraph and so on. Another good idea is to get learners in groups of four and form a feedback reading circle where each student gets feedback from the three other members of the group.

Reformulation

Reformulation is when the student hands in a piece of writing and the teacher reformulates the original with a better version. Instead of the teacher providing a better version, it can be the learners who are providing the improved version of their classmate’s work.

To conclude….

Peer-feedback involves ‘’students in their own destiny’’ and encourages autonomy as well as motivates them even more (Brown 2004, cited in Peng 2010). It can be a very useful feedback method for every teacher as long as it is monitored and planned well. It will probably never replace teacher feedback but it is a method that can be used to get adult learners more involved in their work.

How often do you use peer feedback in your adult classes? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

References

Gardner, D. (2000). ‘’Self–assessment for autonomous learners.’’ Links and letters: Hong Kong p.40-60.

Harmer, J. (2013). The Practice of English Language Teaching. China: Pearson.

Peng, J (2010). Selected Proceedings of the 2008 Second Language Research Forum, ed. Matthew T. Prior et al., 89-107. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.

I love to hate formal observations

I mentioned in one of my previous posts that my next post was going to be about formal observations cause well, loads of people are talking about them, and I thought, I’d join in. Now, loads of time has gone by since I said that, and this post has been sitting in my drafts section for quite a while now, but now is the time. Let’s talk about observations and formal observations (observations that are assessed).

So here is what I think. Formal observations are necessary, but evil (tell us how you really feel Jo). Now, evil is used for dramatic purposes. Before I go all full on about what I dislike about formal observations, I will start off with what I like about observations in general. You learn. You get constructive feedback and you see your teaching through someone else’s eyes. If you are a stronger personality, you may even ask the person observing you to pay attention to one of your weaknesses and give you tips on how to deal with that weakness. They help you improve, think out of the box, and maybe even approach a lesson differently next time. Anyone can observe you. A new teacher can give you fresh ideas a more seasoned teacher may give you practical tips and vice versa.

BUT as I said earlier, formal observations are not my cup of tea. Why? Cause even if you are the best eva prepared and qualified teacher, there is someone who is there looking at you,assessing you,  and this is stressful.

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Assessment and formal observations

In cases where formal observations are part of a diploma/certificate, they become a ‘tool’ of assessment.Someone is  assessing you based on what? Criteria. Criteria set by whom? Do these criteria fit all teaching contexts, situations, learners and teachers?

So, my next question now is, if you have a 3-4 formal observation, will they really showcase how good or bad a teacher you are? And before you say… ”that’s not why formal observations take place Joanna”. I will ask you, “so why assess then?” That’s why, for me, the assessment part of formal observations shouldn’t exist. In my little brain, the sole purpose of an observation should be to help you find ways to become a better teacher. Does assessment take that away? Yes, when you are box ticking.

Now you may say, “Yes, but in order to get a certificate/diploma, we need to formally observe you and assess you.” Sure you do, but just cause I pass the assessment criteria, doesn’t mean I know how to teach. I could have read all the criteria and made a lesson that fits these crtieria, couldn’t I? Or I could be teaching this way to pass the criteria but in real life, I neva, eva teach like that.

And anyway, what is a perfect/ good lesson? Who defines good or bad? Finally, (this is just a question that will probably piss you off) but isn’t the person assessing you, assessing you the way s/he thinks the lesson should be because the criteria have become embedded in their brain?

So what do I suggest?

Of course I am in a position to make decisions, but in my perfect little pink world this would happen. Observations wouldn’t be assessed. Period.There would be no box ticking.

I would observe, but not assess.

I would ask the teacher being observed to tell me what they want me to focus on (some people to do that). I would then make suggestions. Not assess.

I would ask for lesson plans after the observation. I would give the teacher the time to sit down and write a lesson plan after the observed lesson. Don’t get me wrong, the teacher can make a little lesson plan prior to his/her lesson, but, I, the observer would get it after the lesson. Why? Cause for me, one of the hardest and most stressful part of a formal observation was sticking to my lp.

Final thoughts

I have had some very enlightening and helpful observations in my teaching career. I have gained a lot from them. How should teachers be assessed in order to get a diploma? I dunno. That’s not the purpose of this post!

Feel free to leave a comment in the section below. It’s all yours.

Till next time ………

T+T0=P: Time Management Problems when Teaching Online

Time management when teaching online can be a bit tricky, so I thought I’d write a post about it (after Demmy suggested it of course!). I have a few suggestions to make time management more ‘manageable’. Let’s start by discussing what I mean by ‘time management problems’. As I see it, there are two types of time management problems.

Problem  number one

You cannot manage your time effectively online during the lesson, and you end up not doing what you had planned to teach.

Problem number two

You thought online teaching would ensure a better quality of life, meaning that you would have time to spend at home, and you would be a freer teacher. Instead, you are still working all day. Online or offline, you are struggling to find time, and 24 hours are not enough!

Now, let’s move on. Time to have a look at what kind of issues may affect your time management as an online tutor, and make suggestions on how to alleviate these problems.

Too many Notes and Things to share with the learners

  • Try to make folders of the material you use and try to use your material as often as you can. If, for instance, you teach grammar mostly, make docs for all the grammar points and then keep using over and over (theory docs). I, for example, have conversational lessons that are based on articles. I have a folder with the articles and word docs with tasks which are based on them. It takes time to make this folder and if you are new at online teaching this will take forever, but you can use it over and over after time. In a nutshell, just make folders and save all your stuff. You need to be very organised!!
  • If you have PPT slides, turn them into word documents and type comments under the slides. There is also a note-taking option when you choose to print a PPT. If you want, you can tell your learner to print the slides before the lesson and tell them to make handwritten notes of things you ask them to write down (in this case PPT slides need to be sent prior to the lesson).
  • Have you thought of having a generic lesson note template which you use over and over again? Do you have a doc of general feedback you can copy paste onto different documents to different learners? This generic feedback doc will save you loads of time!Again, you go to your grammar theory doc for example (the one I mentioned earlier) and you copy paste the theory or your notes and then you add more comments.  Be careful though, do not make notes of every single mistake your learner makes.This is very important!  You could say, when you first get a learner, that you will be sending them feedback notes with X number of grammar/vocabulary points and Y number of phonology/pronunciation errors. This learner/ teacher feedback notes agreement will save you time, will keep your feedback shorter, and will make your learner more conscious!! They need to take notes as well!!

Have to send too many documents/upload stuff

  • Get a learner’s management system  or a Wiki where your learner goes and sees everything uploaded. Remember the grammar theory document I mentioned earlier? If you have a website with this info already uploaded, you can direct your learner there.

Tech problems that cause you to be online/offline

  • Have a good internet connection. Nothing else.

Lesson planning problems that are affected by tech problems etc.

  • The solution here is quite easy. Chuck your lesson plan if you were beaten by the ‘tech’ beast, or be more generous with your task timing. The more flexible you are, the easier it will be to cope with your lesson plan going down the drain.

Distractions at home

  • Have a designated area in a room (like a study) where you teach. Door should be closed and don’t have phones next to you unless it is extremely necessary ( I often take the phone off the hook when I am teaching online).

Online distractions

  • This is a no brainer, when you teach online, have everything else, all other websites, closed. Yeap, Facebook is great, but it may distract you when you are teaching and you will forget what you were talking about.

Final tip: Remember to multi-task. If your learner is reading an article or writing a short text online, you can be making lesson notes.

I hope these suggestions help you to save a bit time. Just keep in mind, teachers are all wired in a way that makes them work or think about work 24/7. Happy teaching!!!

Feel free to leave a comment on how you save time when teaching online. Follow this blog via mail, WordPress or Bloglovin if you found it helpful and want to keep reading my posts. There is also a Facebook page on the side bar you could ‘like’. Enough with the self-promo. Thanks for stopping by.

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Till next time……

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Feedback on writing

Why is feedback important and how do you give feedback on writing? In this post you will find information about feedback, self- assessment and peer feedback, ideas on how to correct as well as a few suggestions on how to avoid burnout.

Feedback- some background information

“In teaching, feedback refers to comments or other information that learners receive concerning their success on learning tasks or tests, either from the teacher or other persons.” (Richards & Schmidt, 2010)

The objective of feedback is to help the learner improve his/her performance (Ur, 2004) and give appropriate praise + suggestions (Harmer, 2013). When we talk about feedback on writing we need to consider the difference between assessment and correction.

  • Assessment: the learner is informed about how s/he performed.
  • Correction: some specific information is provided on aspects of the learner’s performance (Ur, 2004).

Assessment is when we give a grade (A, B, C) and it can be quite subjective. You can have assessment without correction, but you cannot have correction without some sort of assessment.

What else do we need to consider when giving feedback on writing?

The first thing we need to consider, in my opinion, is whether this feedback is an intervention (something we do during the writing process) or if it is feedback on the final product. We also need to think about who our learner is and why the learner is writing. Also, will you be correcting a full text or a sample of the learner’s writing. If you will be correcting a sample, who decides on what to correct? The teacher? Or will the learner ask the teacher to correct something particular? Other things you should think about is the class size and how much time you have to correct a particular piece of writing.

                       Correction ideas

  1. Codes

  •  Error code:

Many teachers use an error code when checking students’ writing. You collect your students’ texts and instead of correcting the mistakes, you use symbols/abbreviations which correspond to language features, you use an error code. So, for example SP. stands for spelling and WW. stands for wrong word. You can make the error code yourself or use something you have found in a book.

error code

Instead of using abbreviations, you can use a highlighter pen. In this case, each colour corresponds to a type of error. This may be more suitable for children.

COLOURS

 Either way, you need to make sure that your students are familiar with the error code and know what each initial or abbreviation means. Try an error code terminology checker task. What is a terminology checker? Well, you write down the key abbreviations in bubbles and definitions under the bubbles, you then project them on the overhead projector or you use handouts. Your students then have to match the abbreviation with the definition or tell you what means what.

Picture1

One last thing you need to take into consideration is when to use an error code. Use it on mistakes the learners can correct. If you have a beginners class and you use the error code on, let’s say a verb that should have been in the passive voice, your learner will probably be unable to correct it, so you will only frustrate him/her or make him/her feel bad.

2. Comments

  • Comments in the margin+ end of text

When correcting your learner’s text it is a good idea to ask questions related to some of the information you find in the text, especially comments related to the content or lexis/grammar. Something may require more analysis, so you can make a comment bubble and ask, ”What do you mean?” or you may want to make a comment on something that you find interesting and say, ”Great idea!” or ”I totally agree”. Apart from comments in the margins you may want to make comments at the end of a text as well. Make sure the comments in the margins are connected to the comments at the end. Also, make sure that your students understand the connection. For example, if in the margin you say, “What do you mean by this?” and in your final comments (at the bottom of the page) you say, “You need to support your arguments more”, make sure that your learners understand that these two comments are connected.

  • Sandwich Feedback

Sandwich feedback is when you give a positive comment, then talk about something your learner did not do well or needs to work on, and then you write another positive comment.

You can also write feedback in a constructive way by using the

You did this……….

You didn’t do this…..

You need to do this……….  phrasing

  • Reformulation

Reformulation is when you rewrite the learner’s original text in a better way. Keep in mind that reformulation is a great way for the learners to see how they can produce a better text, just make sure that your “better version” is not beyond the learners’ abilities.

  • Online Feedback

If you are really tech savvy or if you want to be a bit more fancy, you can send your learners oral feedback or share a YouTube video. The sky is your limit fellow teacher. Online feedback suggestions:

  • Google docs
  • YouTube- screencasts (you can upload a video of you giving feedback on your learner’s work)
  • Vocaroo (website that allows you to record your feedback and email it to your learner)
  • Turnitin (plagiarism detector that also has sections for feedback)

Why use online feedback?

Your students probably like technology, and these websites have some really useful tools. Another benefit of using online feedback is that they get saved in the web so the dog cannot chew up your feedback!!

Why not?

It takes time to get used to and you or your students may not like technology.

3…………..

Write nothing. Instead of writing comments, have a tutorial with your learner. Have a short meeting where you discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the learner’s writing. Your learner will be able to ask questions and even open up to you about any difficulties regarding his/her writing.

          Individual vs. group feedback

Individual feedback is quite clear from its name. You comment on the individual’s writing.

Group feedback is when you give feedback on the whole group’s writing. You focus on common features of performance  and how these can be improved.

          Getting the learner involved

1. Self-Assessment/correction

  • Use a check list

Make a check list and ask your students to assess their work based on the items in this check list.

  • Journal writing

Your students can assess their performance in a writing journal. They  can reflect on what they have managed so far and write down anything that makes them worry. They can even use the sandwich feedback method to assess their texts.

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  • Error log

It is a good idea to get your learners to check the types of mistakes they make and see if there are errors that occur over and over again. If there are errors that recur:

1. Your learner will realise that he/she needs to address it.

2. You, the teacher, can include tasks, lessons that will help your learners with structures and language they are struggling with.

  • Rubrics/ assessment criteria

Instead of you marking your students’ work based on writing assessment criteria, why not get them to look at their work and assess it based on the writing assessment criteria? These type of activities are remarkable when working with advanced learners. It gets your students to reflect on their texts and see what needs work on. I have used criteria sheets in my exam classes and my EAP classes. I strongly recommend you try this with your learners. I would not recommend it for lower level students though because they may have language barrier issues. When you first introduce writing assessment criteria to your learners, it is a good idea to use a sample. Give them a text that has been assessed based on writing criteria but do not give them the final grades. Ask them to assess it and then show them the grades/highlighted criteria. Once they familiarise themselves with the process, they will be able to apply it to their own work.

2. Peer feedback

Peer feedback is another way to get the learners involved in assessment and correction. You can ask your learners to give peer feedback during the writing process or at the end. Your learners can give peer feedback by using:

  • criteria/rubrics

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  • a specially designed form

Design a form and get your learners to check their classmates work based on what is on the form.

You can also make reading circles.  How does this work? Get your learners into groups of four and ask them to look at each other’s work and make comments, ask questions and use rubrics to assess their classmate’s writing. This way, each learner will get feedback from three people! Emphasise to your learners that they should only correct things they are sure their classmate has wrong. Your role here is  to monitor and offer suggestions when asked.

How do you know your learner understands your feedback?

We all give feedback and most of the times are probably happy with the work we have done. The question to ask though is, ” How do we know that our learners are learning from our feedback?” Well, you can do two things.

  1. Get feedback on your feedback.

Ask your learners what they think of the feedback you give them. Do they find it helpful? Is it enough? You could also make this feedback anonymous and get your students to tick boxes.

     2. Feedback Q & A

A while back I had written a post about feedback Q & A. What you do is after you correct your student’s writing, you make comments and then based on these comments you ask questions and give them tasks to practice any structures, grammar points etc. they used incorrectly. This takes a lot of time and cannot be done with big classes (unless it is group feedback) and on a daily basis. I do recommend trying it from time to time though.

                    Avoiding burnout

Feedback on writing requires a lot of time and effort and may lead to burnout. You can avoid burnout by:

  1. selective marking
  2. changing error codes
  3. involving the learners

(Harmer, 2013)

Coffeee

 

Feedback on writing is very important and integral to our learners’ progress. I hope you found this post helpful. Feel free to add any other ideas in the comments section below.

Till next time….

 

References

Harmer, J. (2013) The Practice of English Language Teaching. China: Pearson.

Richards, C. J. & Schmidt, R. (2010) Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching & Applied Linguistics. Malaysia: Pearson.

Ur, P. (2004) A course in Language Teaching. Cambridge: CUP.

the wonderful world of feedback

The wonderful world of feedback and correcting: focusing on the writing skill.
I have been correcting and marking loads of essays these days and every time I find myself using different types of feedback, so that gave me the idea for this post. So, let’s have a look at different types of feedback and ways to correct.
Teacher’s feedback/correction
  • Error code:
Many teachers use an error code when checking students’ writing. You collect your students’ texts and instead of correcting the mistakes, you use symbols/abbreviations which correspond to language features, you use an error code. So, for example SP. stands for spelling and WW. stands for wrong word. You can make the error code yourself or use something you have found in a book. Either way, you need to make sure that your students are familiar with the error code and know what each initial or abbreviation means.
Error code with a twist: instead of using abbreviations, you can use a highlighter pen. In this case, each colour correspond to a type of error. This may be more suitable for children.

 

Teaching Tip: Are you sure that your learners know what each symbol means? You may have told them over and over again, but you will still get a student saying, ”I didn’t correct the essay cause I didn’t know what S/V stood for” . No need to worry. I have a suggestion for that! Why not try an error code terminology checker task? What is a terminology checker? Well, you write down the key abbreviations in bubbles and project them, your students then have to match the abbreviation with the definition or tell you what means what.
  • Correcting mistakes:
Well, this type of correction method has probably been used by most teachers. I guess you have corrected your students’ mistakes by drawing a line over the mistake and giving the correct sentence/version. I do this from time to time, but only when I think my learners do not have the knowledge to correct it themselves.
Teaching tip: Instead of just correcting their errors why not challenge your students a bit? Once you have corrected their mistakes, you could make little exercises/tasks which are connected to their errors just to help them practice with the structures/phenomena they are struggling with (I have written a post about feedback Q & A. Check it out here).
  • Comment bubbles/Dialogue with your student:
When correcting your learner’s text it is a good idea to ask questions related to some of the information you find in the text, especially comments related to the content. Something may require more analysis, so you can make a comment bubble and ask, ”What do you mean?” or you may want to make a comment on something that you find interesting and say, ”Great idea!” or ”I totally agree”. The comments you write are totally up to you. Once you hand back the texts, your learners can reply to the questions you ask and then you have a short dialogue.
 
  • Oral feedback:
If you are really tech savvy or if you want to be a bit more fancy, you can send your learners oral feedback or share a YouTube video. The sky is your limit fellow teacher. I have used vocaroo. You go to the website, record yourself speaking and then send your feedback to the learner. One of the benefits here is that the feedback is saved and cannot be lost or eaten by the dog!
                                         http://vocaroo.com/player.swf?playMediaID=s1j71mo4p0pf&autoplay=0
  • Ticking a checklist:
You can make a checklist and put ticks in the appropriate boxes depending on whether the student has fulfilled the requirements of the writing task or not. This type of feedback is more effective when the feedback has to do with development of ideas or specific structures/ language points. So, if for example, you have told your students to write a story, you can make a story genre features checklist and tick the features that are evident in your student’s story.
          The wording of the teacher’s feedback
Telling your student everything that has gone wrong in their writing may turn out to be a boomerang. Be constructive and positive. Put a smile on their faces : ). I prefer wording my feedback comments in the following two ways:
  • Sandwich feedback:
Sandwich feedback is when you give a positive comment, then talk about something your learner did not do well or needs to work on, and then you write another positive comment.
  • You did this/you didn’t do this/you need to:
Just like the sandwich feedback, in this case start with something positive. Then, mention what your learner didn’t do, and conclude with suggestions on the actions that need to be taken.
Student generated feedback/correction
  • Peer feedback:
Peer feedback is a good way to get everybody involved in the feedback/correction process. In this case, one student reads another student’s work and tries to offer feedback or make corrections. You can ask your students to use the error code, correct based on a checklist or  look for something in particular like checking for plagiarism for example. The good thing about this type of feedback is that students often respond well to corrections that come from a classmate. It also makes them more active in relation to the whole correction process.
Teaching tip: Have you ever used a reading circle during a peer feedback session? I often get my EAP students to sit in groups of four. I tell them to look at the introduction of their classmates’ essay, for example, and check to see if there is a thesis statement, a map, author’s voice etc. I also tell them to look for anything that is missing or is not easily understood. I set a time limit (let’s say five minutes) and when the time is up, they have to give the introduction to the next student in the group. This goes on for a few times. Then, each student gets their essay back, but now it has a lot of comments for them to work on. Of course, during a reading circle, you, the teacher, have to monitor and stick to the time limits you set, otherwise you will have some students with piles of paper next to them, and others with nothing to check.
  • Self- Correction: 
I often tell my students to take five or ten minutes at the beginning of a lesson, before they hand in their writing homework, to check their texts and try to see if they can find any mistakes. While they are checking, I monitor and offer any help when asked for it. It is very important to get students to read their texts before they hand them in because very often they give you the first draft of something without even checking it!
  • Using writing assessment criteria:
Instead of you marking your students’ work based on writing assessment criteria, why not get them to look at their work and assess it based on the writing assessment criteria? These type of activities are remarkable when working with advanced learners. It gets your students to reflect on their texts and see what needs work on. I have used criteria sheets in my exam classes and my EAP classes. I strongly recommend you try this with your learners. I would not recommend it for lower level students though because they may have language barrier issues.
Teaching Tip: When you first introduce writing assessment criteria to your learners, it is a good idea to use a sample. Give them a text that has been assessed based on writing criteria but do not give them the final grades. Ask them to assess it and then show them the grades/highlighted criteria. Once they familiarise themselves with the process, they will be able to apply it to their own work.
Screenshot of Ielts writing band descriptions taken from here:
Error/Feedback Log
It is a good idea to get your learners to check the types of mistakes they make and see if there are errors that occur over and over again. If there are errors that reoccur:
1.Your learner will realise that he/she needs to address it.
2. You, the teacher, can include tasks, lessons that will help your learners with structures and language they are struggling with.There are many ways to check your students’ writing. I like to mix and match depending on the learners. I do think though that it is essential to get students to be more active regarding the correcting of their texts.

You can download everything here:

Example of an error code
http://viewer.docstoc.com/

* In this document (colour code section) the computer automatically corrected my spelling mistake so it says your instead of yor (which was the spelling mistake).

var docstoc_docid=’172347092′; var docstoc_title=’Example of an error code’; var docstoc_urltitle=’Example of an error code’;Feel free to leave a comment in the comments section.

Till next time………

Writing Feedback Idea

What does your essay feedback look like?

I was correcting my student’s essay the other day and started writing my feedback for her essay, and then I thought to myself, “Will she read all this? Will she benefit from it?” So, I racked my brain a bit and then came up with a brilliant idea! Feedback Q & A for my student. Have I grabbed your attention yet, fellow teacher? Great! Now, read on. So, let’s take things from the beginning.

Background information
The learner: My student is a C2 level learner who has been learning English for approximately 7 years now. She will be sitting for C2 level certificate exams at the end of the year. She is a studious learner. She had to write an essay about the advantages and disadvantages of using the internet.
The teacher’s feedback track record: Although my feedback style varies, often when I comment on my students’ essays I : 
  • Circle/mark/correct things on the essay.
  • Follow up with feedback comments where I rewrite/ correct some of the mistakes/ give grammar comments/talk about organisation-content and so on.
  • I follow the sandwich method (strength-weakness-strength OR you did this-you didn’t do this-you need to do this).
  • I use the learner’s L1 when my student is a bit weak and when I see L1/L2 transfer errors.
  • I do not comment about every single mistake in the essay.
  • I try to make my feedback page one page long (A4).
  • I do not squash everything up. I like space!
  • I use bullet points not numbers.
  • I use smiley faces : ) and sad faces : ( (sometimes there are even tears!).
  • My comments are handwritten. The good old-fashioned way.
  • I never use a red pen!
Why do I do this?
 Well, I have been correcting essays like this for many many years so, it is only natural for me to write my feedback page! I feel like I haven’t corrected an essay if I do not state their mistakes/ strengths clearly or if I do not make suggestions on what they could have written.
  
My students’ opinion of my (lengthy) feedback:
Some learners read it and like it. They learn from their mistakes. I often tell them to go over the feedback from all the essays they have written to check if any of their mistakes reoccur. Others don’t bother reading it. They just take their notebook and chuck it in their bag. The latter for me, as a teacher, is demotivating. I then think of all the students who do read and do learn from my comments, so I keep writing my feedback comments page.

What did I do differently this time?

Feedback Q & A?

As I said earlier,I get discouraged when my students do not bother to read what I have written and I also want to check to see if they have learnt something from what I wrote. I also want to see if they can reflect on what they have written. So, I thought, ” Hey! What if I ask them questions about the feedback? Something like a feedback questionnaire? ” and I did. I made a feedback quiz/drill/reflection page!See picture.OK, so it ain’t the best thing you have ever seen but it is a start and I do think it will benefit my learners.

What did my learner think?

She said that she liked the idea (implication: would she have told me if she didn’t? Hopefully, yes). My questions were focused on the mistakes she had made in her writing task. She also had an opportunity to amend some of her errors. She got extra practice on some of the things she got wrong in her essay. I asked her a question about the strengths of her essay. She found pinpointing them quite hard. I was expecting the latter because upon reflect, I do not know about you guys, but whilst I write down the positive points of my students’ essays, I do not often ask them to tell me what they think is good about their essay.

Why should a teacher try this?
Well, if nothing else, you ensure that your learner actually looks at the written feedback you have given him. They notice their mistakes! Your learner, depending on the questions/tasks you put on this Q&A form will get a chance to correct any mistakes/ make new sentences with the language he got wrong and so on. It is also a great opportunity for him to reflect not only on his strengths but also the weaknesses.
BUT…. and there is always a but….
this is VERY time consuming for you and the class. I would not make a little feedback Q&A page for every single piece of writing my students give me but I would do it from time to time because it does help my learners. I think I would be more eclectic as to when I make these feedback Q&A pages and branch them out to different genres so that my learners can look closely at different types of texts.

You can do this with any writing class and with all learners, so try it out. Will your students’ writing be impeccable? Maybe not. Improved? Yeap!

Downloadable writing feedback Q & A idea. Step by step

Feedback Q.docx
http://viewer.docstoc.com/ var docstoc_docid=”171634780″;var docstoc_title=”Feedback Q.docx”;var docstoc_urltitle=”Feedback Q.docx”;

I really enjoyed this blog post. I hope you did too. Feel free to comment below. I am interested in seeing if you do this in your writing classes and how effective you think it is.
  A few days later… note to the reader… This post was shortlisted for this month’s (June) Teaching English blog post award, so if you like it, go to the Teaching English via the British Council Facebook page, scroll down to where it says this blog post has been shortlisted and press ‘like’. Either way, thanks so much for reading : ) and thanks to the Teaching English Facebook page for shortlisting this post : D
Till next time…..