Marking papers and providing feedback is always a chore. However, nothing seems to be more challenging in teaching then providing feedback for written work. There are so many things that can go wrong when students write. Furthermore, the mistakes made are often totally unique to each student. This makes it challenging to try and solve problems by teaching all the students at once. Feedback for writing must often be tailor-made for each student. Doing this for a small class is doable but few have the luxury of teaching a handful of students.
Despite the challenge, there are several practical ways to streamline the experience of providing feedback for papers. Some ideas include the following
- Structuring the response
- Training the students
- Understanding your purpose for marking
Structuring the Response
A response to a student should include the following two points
- What went well (positive feedback)
- What needs to improvement (constructive feedback)
The response should be short and sweet. No more than a few sentences. It is not necessary to report every flaw to the student. Rather, point out the majors and deal with other problems later.
If it is too hard to try and explain what went wrong sometimes providing an example of a rewritten paragraph from the student’s paper is enough to give feedback. The student compares your writing with their own to see what needs to be done.
Students need to know what you want. This means that clear communication about expectations saves time on providing feedback. Providing rubrics is one way of lessen a teacher’s workload. Students see the expectations for the grade they want and target those expectations accordingly. The rubric also helps the teacher to be more consistent in marking papers and providing feedback.
Peer-evaluation is another tool for saving time. Students are more likely to think about what they are doing when hearing it from peers. In addition, students can find some of the smaller problems, such as grammar, so that the teacher can focus on shaping the ideas of the paper. Depending on the maturity of the students, it is better to let them look at it before you invest any energy in providing feedback.
What’s Your Purpose
Many teachers will mark papers and try to catch everything every single time. This means that they are looking at the flow of the paragraph, the connection of the main ideas, will also catch typos and grammatical mistakes. This approach is often overwhelming and extremely time-consuming. In addition, it is discouraging to students who receive papers that are covered in red.
Another approach is what is called selective marking. Selective marking is when a teacher focuses only on specific issues in a paper. For example, a teacher might only focus on paragraph organization for a first draft and focus on the overall flow of the paper later. With this focus, the teacher and students can handle similar issues at the same time that are much more defined than checking everything at once.
Personally, I believe it is best to focus on macro issues such as paragraph organization and overall consistency first before focusing on grammatical issues. If the ideas are going in the right direction it is easy to spot grammar issues. In addition, if the students know English well, most grammar issues are irritating rather than completely crippling in understanding the thrust of the paper. However, perfect grammar without a thesis is a hopeless paper.
There is no reason to overwork ourselves in marking papers. Basic adjustments in strategy can lead to students who are provided feedback without a teacher over doing it.