Summative Feedback on Writing: What matters at the end of the term?

Research in the teaching of writing has demonstrated that early feedback offered when a student has an opportunity to revise has beneficial consequences for learning.  This formative feedback affords the opportunity for students to learn in the context of their own writing, to experiment with strategies for improvement, and to engage in self-directed learning as they revise. However, what about the end of the semester? Can faculty offer meaningful feedback at the end of the term? Of course!

Comments on Work in Progress: Smooth sailing with rough drafts

If your course design involves a large end-of-semester paper or project, now is the perfect time of year to examine students’ work in progress. Research on feedback in writing clearly demonstrates that students learn most when provided with the opportunity to revise based on formative feedback.  While some instructors might recoil at the idea of draft commentary as just more work, offering feedback before a final assessment can simplify the process of grading and ultimately save time. Here are some strategies to keep in mind when responding to students’ work in progress.

Dealing with sentence-level errors: The value of distinguishing error types

Sentence-level errors present a particular challenge for instructors who use writing in their courses. On the one hand, some sentence-level errors are easy to ignore when the meaning of a sentence is unimpeded. If the student understands the commutative property, the Council of Trent, or Ohm’s law, does it matter if they misplace a comma? On the other, the expectation of a particular variety of error-free prose is common enough in school and work settings that a failure to comment can shortchange our students and leave them unprepared for real-world demands.

Revising Writing Rubrics: Two Options

Many instructors use rubrics to help students understand the goals of assignments, to clarify their feedback on writing, and to save time in assessment. While rubrics can be very helpful in promoting student learning, they are by no means simple to construct and can even produce some unwelcome consequences. It can be challenging to codify (and quantify) the features of effective writing, leading to vague categories. At other times, instructors may feel hemmed in or confined by rubrics, forced to specify everything that could be a point of assessment.