Evaluating Writing Feedback Teaching Writing

Giving Effective Feedback

Feedback by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0

Effective feedback is context-specific, determined by the purpose of the feedback, the time in which feedback is provided, and the goal for providing the feedback. To make your feedback effective, consider why, how, and when you are giving feedback.

Why Are You Giving Feedback?

Before you set out to provide feedback on student work, consider the contexts governing your feedback.

  • Are you providing feedback on a low-stakes writing-to-learn assignment or are you providing feedback on a high-stakes assignment?
  • Is this feedback being given to facilitate revision, or is the purpose of this feedback intended to be applied to future assignments?
  • In what stage of the assignment is the feedback being offered? Are you providing feedback on a final draft accompanied by a grade, or are you providing feedback on a work-in-progress that can be revised?
  • What is the goal of this feedback? To teach specific disciplinary writing conventions? To assess mastery of the subject? To encourage deeper learning?

How Are You Giving Feedback?

A major context to consider when giving feedback is whether the feedback is summative or formative. While both forms of feedback play important roles in learning and assessment, formative feedback is more effective in developing student learning.

Summative feedback is feedback given at the end of a task, often provided to accompany, and sometimes justify, a grade. While students can learn from summative feedback, the goal of summative feedback is to assess mastery as represented in the assignment.

Formative feedback is feedback given during the process of working on a task, provided on a work-in-progress or on some smaller component or stage of the assignment in order to improve student learning and performance. Unlike summative feedback, formative feedback is intentionally interventional, provided in a timely manner so that students can use the feedback to improve their assignment. According to Hattie and Timperley (2007), formative feedback is one of our most effective tools for teaching and learning.

When Are You Giving Feedback?

One of the most effective ways to incorporate formative feedback in the classroom is to create multi-stage assignments in which an assignment is broken down into a sequence of tasks with feedback provided by peers and the instructor throughout the process. McLeod, Hart-Davidson, and Grabill of Michigan State University’s Eli Review argue that incorporating formative feedback through a rapid iteration model need not take more time than providing summative feedback at the end of an assignment, and shifting the amount of time and effort we spend writing, reviewing, and revising.

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Comparison of the typical and rapid iteration models, from Eli Review’s “Feedback and Revision: The Key Components of Powerful Writing Pedagogy.” CC BY-NC 4.0

Traditional Model, from Eli Review’s “Feedback and Revision.”

In the traditional model, approximately 60% of the work is spent drafting while the other 40% is roughly spent equally on both reviewing and revising at the end of the process.

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From Eli Review’s “Feedback and Revision: The Key Components of Powerful Writing Pedagogy.” CC BY-NC 4.0

Rapid Iteration Model, from Eli Review’s “Feedback and Revision.”

In the Rapid Iteration model, roughly 50% of the work is focused on revision, 30% on reviewing, and 20% on drafting with each task taking place throughout the process.

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From Eli Review’s “Feedback and Revision: The Key Components of Powerful Writing Pedagogy.” CC BY-NC 4.0

For more ideas regarding feedback and revision, check out our blog posts “Characteristics of Effective Feedback,” “Helping Students Revise,” “A Few Tips for Teaching (with) Writing,” and “Exploring One Faculty Member’s Decision to Stop Writing on Student Papers.