Practitioner Best Practices: Providing Effective Feedback

These guidelines will help you when evaluating student work.

Norming & Calibration

  • Reference the rubric. Refer back to the rubric often to keep grading accurate and consistent and feedback aligned with learning goals.

  • Norm. Before you start grading, read at least three pieces of student work in order to get a baseline understanding of student abilities.

  • Review. The first few assignments you grade are the toughest. As you progress, you will get a feel for the students and better understand the assignment and rubric. It is often useful to go back and review these first few assignments after you have finished in order to check for consistency.

What You Say...

  • Prioritize. Diagnose the most-pressing problems with the student’s work and focus your effort on those issues, 2-3 max. Ask youself: what will make the biggest impact for that student?

  • “Fix the writer, not the writing”. Think like a coach or tutor, not an editor. Re-writing the paper for the student is not a good use of your time or likely to meaningfully affect the student.

  • Don’t overly focus on grammar and mechanics. In a typical rubric, conventions comprise only a small part of what the teacher is looking for. If the conventions prevent you from reading the essay, you can say something like "please go back and review your conventions and spelling" and leave it at that.

  • Simplify the tasks for the student. Be specific and concise so students don’t get overwhelmed, discouraged, or lost in the weeds. Provide examples or explanations of concepts for students. Most importantly, make sure you feedback is clear and actionable so students know what to do for revisions or future assignments.

...How You Say It

  • Add a personal touch. One of the things that makes being a Graider special is the fact that you are pre-service teacher who cares deeply about the students behind the papers. Instead of quoting the rubric verbatim, personalize your comments in conjunction with using language from the rubric.
  • Have high expectations. Feedback should challenge students! Push and engage them in the learning process.

  • DO NOT praise for obvious things. It is important to balance areas for growth with positive feedback, but avoid empty praise and fluff words (i.e. “great job”, “awesome”). Words like “wonderful” and  “good” don’t tell students what they should continue incorporating in their writing.  For example, “You have a great introduction” isn’t constructive feedback. Instead say, “Thesis is well focused and hook attention getting.”

  • Frame feedback in the positive. Instead of saying, “You didn’t give enough examples to support your thesis,” you can instead say, “Next time you should provide more examples to support your thesis."

Your credibility

  • Be professional. It is imperative to use formal language and be sure to check for spelling and grammar mistakes. You are the expert; therefore, informal language and conventional errors undermine your authority and diminish student acceptance of the feedback. Plus, misspelled words drive teachers crazy!

  • Time management! Keep track of your your time per student and total grading time. Use a stopwatch on your phone or computer to keep you focused and on time. 

Citations, Plagiarism and Incomplete Work

  • Citations. Whenever you are grading a research paper, make sure that you diligently check citations. Citations are especially important in research papers and some students may not have many opportunities to practice. It’s important for you to recognize whether a student is using the citations correctly. If they have not mastered citations, you can point them to the following resources (based on which formatting style they are using) and be sure to flag this to the teacher in the Class Summary write-up.

  • Plagiarism. If you suspect plagiarism, please send the teacher a message immediately and let them know which student and where the plagiarism is located in their essay. Teachers have their own procedures for handling plagiarism. Your job is simply to alert them. Here are some potential signs of plagiarism, according to MIT’s Comparative Media Studies Writing Center:

    • Unusual phrasings

    • Noticeable unevenness of style (some very sophisticated sentences followed by some amateurish ones)

    • Concepts that seem too sophisticated for the level of the class

    • Unclear or incorrect sources listed in the bibliography

    • A writing style or diction choice in a particular paper that seems inconsistent with that found in other samples of the student’s writing  

    • Please note: It is NOT your responsibility as a Graider to identify the source of the plagiarism. Please do not copy and paste student work into free, online plagiarism detectors. While this may seem like the diligent thing to do, you may not share student work with any third party - including services like these.

  • Incomplete Work. If you come across work that is incomplete, please send the teacher a message immediately and be sure to include the student’s name in your message. The teacher may be able to upload a completed version of the work, or they may have their own procedure for handling incomplete work (depending on how much the student has written.)

    It can be challenging to provide constructive feedback on work that is incomplete, however you still need to engage the student based on what they have written. Students are more likely to read a personal note than a coded teacher response. Simply remarking “incomplete assignment” - while potentially the most accurate statement - will not motivate or encourage students to keep working. To be effective, students need to hear what the Graider is trying to say. Try your best to give them praise on what they did - and encourage them to persist. 

Carol Jago, the author of Papers, Papers Papers, gives the following example of feedback for incomplete work:

Dear student,

Intriguing title and introduction. You make me want more - much, much more. Fulfilling the demands of this assignment requires an essay that is at least twice as long as what you have written here. It’s not that longer is always better but without development you essay is incomplete. Next time be sure to include concrete examples to support your thesis.

Another example:

Dear student,

This draft is disappointing. I cannot stress how important it is to meet your deadlines and expectations. What we have here is entirely lacking and needs to be completed before it can be reviewed. I wish you the best of luck as you finish this chapter and compile your full rough draft very soon.