Tag Archives: feedback

Conferencing with Students

Conferences can play a vital role in supporting the growth and improvement of your students. The one-on-one interaction is a priceless use of time for them. In this post, we will look at conferencing and the process for successful use of this idea.


A conference is an opportunity for a teacher and student to discuss one-on-one the students progress in regards to the student’s academic performance. By academic performance, it can mean summative performance or formative.

Conferences can also be used for long term projects such as papers, research, or other more complex assignments.  The length of time does not have to be more than 5-10 minutes in order to provide support. The personal nature of a conference seems to work even in such a short amount of time.

Below are some steps to take when conducting a conference with a student

  1. Explain what is going well
  2. Ask the student if they see any other strengths
  3. Explain what needs to be improve
  4. Ask the student if they see any other problems
  5. Provide suggestions on how to improve weaknesses
  6. Let the student suggest ways to improve
  7. Ask the student if they have any questions

The Good

Begin by sharing what was excellent about the paper. This prepares the student for the bad news. There is almost always something to praise even from the weakest students.

You can also solicit what the student thinks is strong about their paper. This encourages critical thinking as it requires them to form an opinion and provide reasons for it. This also encourages dialog and makes conferences collaborative rather than top-down communication.

Conferences need to be evidence based. This means when something is good you have an example from the paper for the student of what good looks like. THe same applies for bad as well. Concrete examples are what people need to understand and learn.

The Bad

Next, it is time to share the problems with the paper. As the teacher, you point out where improvement is necessary. In addition, you allow the student to share where they think they can do better. Often there is awkward silence but self-reflection is critical to success.

If the student remains silent,  you may elicit a response through asking them questions about their paper that indicates a weakness. Soon the student begins to see the problems for themselves.

The Solution

With problems identified it is important to provide ways to improve. This is where the learning begins. They see what’s wrong and they learn what is right. Naturally, the student can contribute as well to how to improve.

This is also a place where the teacher asks if there are any questions. By this pointing dialoguing has gone on for awhile and questions were probably already asked and answered. However, it is still good to ask one more time in case the student was waiting for whatever reason.


Conferencing is time-consuming but it provides an excellent learning experience for students. It is not necessary for them to be long if there is adequate preparation and there is some sort of structure to the experience.


Giving Feedback on Written Work

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

  1. What went well (positive feedback)
  2. 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.

Training Students

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.