Research in teaching with writing consistently emphasizes the importance of early, formative feedback on writing as critical for students' growth as writers. Formative comments on works in progress can affirm effective writing choices, correct misconceptions and misunderstandings, and coach students on various improvements they can make to their written work. The labor of revising and extending their writing based on expert feedback provides some of the most engaging and practical lessons for developing writers.
Among the many reasons to assign collaborative or team-based writing to students is that it models the collaborative and team-oriented academic fields and workplace contexts where they hope to work. Three Minnesota researchers in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior and colleagues from four other institutions recently described work in their discipline to promote meaningful authorship in massively multi-authored scientific papers.
The final weeks of the semester can be a period of frenzied production as students prepare drafts of their final projects—proposals, essays, presentations, etc.—with hopes of receiving guidance from their instructors and teaching assistants before turning in final versions. While intentionally scaffolded assignments can do much to support students through the process of completing a final project, they do not alleviate the need for timely feedback.
Many instructors know the benefits of reflective writing for promoting students’ conceptual understanding, encouraging student agency, and helping students transfer what they have learned to new contexts. At the same time, grading students' reflections can be challenging: when students report their personal, subjective reflections, doesn’t it make all grading subjective? How can we grade reflective work fairly?
After Thanksgiving Break, the semester takes on added urgency. Students complete—and instructors assess—final projects and exams, and everyone scrambles to wind down the term, gear up for the next, and make arrangements for the holiday break. With time scarce, it can be challenging to take stock and reflect on teaching and learning. But looking back now can provide valuable insights for looking ahead.
Previous tips and workshops have addressed the importance of formative feedback for student writers, those comments aimed toward generating revision when a student still has time to revise their work. In this tip, we will focus on two types of informal writing that can help students turn formative feedback into effective revision. Revision plans are beneficial for students who have less experience revising the kind of writing they have produced, while revision memos are more useful for more experienced writers.
At the end of the semester, especially one as trying as this, it may take all we have to just get through the next two weeks. Students are remotely navigating their labyrinths of final projects and exams, and instructors and TAs are working through their backlog of grading. It’s probably not a good time to implement a new strategy for teaching with writing. And yet, while “Old Time is still a-flying,” it is useful to think about gathering work from this semester to support your teaching in the spring.
Feedback on writing is critical to writing development, but how can we provide valuable feedback in an online teaching context? This tip introduces audio and video feedback as strategies for responding to writing and details easily available tools in Canvas to incorporate audio and video feedback.
Peer response activities are a long-established and well-proven means to improve student writing. In a recent meta-analysis of studies of peer response, Huisman, Saab, van den Broek, and van Driel (2019) demonstrated that across 24 recent studies of the effectiveness of peer response, peer response activities resulted in strong improvements in writing and greater improvements than other strategies like self-assessment. Nevertheless, peer response activities are still the exception rather than the norm.
The end of the semester and the end of the year provide an opportune time for reflection. Previous TWW tips have encouraged instructors to use this time to take stock of what has worked well in their courses as an impetus for future course planning.