Welcome to our Feedback and Grading Guide!
Here you'll find a bank of feedback and grading resources to help you hone your skills and become an all-star Graider. New Graiders should read this in full before their first assignment, and returning Graiders can check back for answers to common questions and resources for your own personal and professional development.
The 7 Hallmarks of Effective Feedback
We believe that providing effective feedback to students is a teachable skill that can be acquired and improved through practice and coaching. We use a standard framework to teach, provide and evaluate effective feedback. This framework is adapted from renowned educator Grant Wiggins' article, "The Seven Keys of Effective Feedback."
Goal-oriented • Feedback on student work should be tied to specific, measurable learning goals, objectives, or standards. When giving feedback, link your comments to the expectations laid out in the assignment prompt and rubric. Directly reference the prompt and rubric components, using similar language where possible. Help students understand where they are in relation to the stated goals.
Prioritized • Feedback should be concise and focused on the areas of strength and growth that will have the greatest impact on the student's writing. It isn't feasible or advisable to provide feedback on every aspect of a student's writing. Concise, prioritized feedback is more digestible for students and easier to internalize and implement. You will have to make judgement calls on where to focus. Make your selections with the goal of the essay in mind.
Actionable • Feedback should be so specific that the student immediately knows how to take action. Your comments should clearly describe their successes and shortfalls and directly reference the student's work in order to point the student to their next steps. To advance students' metacognition and enable them to self-assess their work, ask probing questions that will spark thoughtful reflection and a new understanding for how to develop their work.
Student-friendly • Feedback should be personalized and engaging to ensure it reaches the student. To aid student acceptance of feedback, respond like a reader who is seeking to understand what the student has written. An encouraging, positive tone will go far in helping students accept your feedback and apply it to future work. Be sure to use language that is clear and not too technical.
Ongoing, Consistent and Timely • To be effective, feedback must also be ongoing, consistent, and timely. This means that students need ample opportunities to use feedback and that feedback must be accurate, trustworthy and stable. When feedback isn’t timely, students are disengaged and demotivated. As a Graider, it is your job to meet all deadlines and ensure you deliver consistent, calibrated feedback.
Best Practices: Effective Scoring and Feedback
The key to being a successful Graider is accuracy and consistency. Students, teachers, and school leaders are depending on reliable scores. In order to achieve this, we recommend that you:
NORMING & CALIBRATION
- Invest time upfront. Before you begin grading, it's critically important that you carefully read all supporting documents. We build prep time into assignment estimates to help ensure you're comfortable with all materials. Once you deeply understand the rubric, scoring guide, exemplars, etc., you will be able to grade more efficiently and effectively. This will save you time and help avoid revision requests for inconsistent or inaccurate work!
- Reference the rubric. Refer back to the rubric often to keep grading accurate and consistent and feedback aligned with learning goals. Tip: In the grading platform, hover over scores for a reminder of rubric language.
- Norm yourself. Before you start grading, read at least three pieces of student work in order to get a baseline understanding of student abilities. Again, this upfront investment of time will give you a better understanding of student performance levels and help you grade more accurately. On some assignments, you may be asked to work with other Graiders to ensure consistency across sections.
- 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 to check for consistency.
WHAT YOU SAY...
- “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, and generally you should not focus on conventions in your feedback unless they distract from understanding. If the conventions errors are significant, you may make a note, but try to make this secondary to content-focused comments, and hone in on a more specific trend (with a specific example noted) if you can. Example: "Sometimes grammar mistakes made it hard for me to follow your writing. Be sure to review your work before you turn it in, and in particular be sure to pay attention to run-on sentences. In your second paragraph, there is a really long sentence that should be two or three."
- 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 that you signed on for this work because you care deeply about the students behind the papers. Be supportive, and instead of quoting the rubric verbatim, personalize your comments in conjunction with using language from the rubric. Consider starting your feedback with the student's name for an extra touch of warmth.
- Have high expectations. Feedback should challenge students! Push and engage them in the learning process.
- DO NOT give empty praise. 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, “Your thesis is well focused, and your hook really grabbed my attention.”
- Frame feedback in the positive. Instead of saying, “You didn’t give enough examples to support your thesis,” you can instead say, “Next time, provide more examples to support your thesis."
- Be professional. It is imperative to use formal language and be sure to check your own work 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 time per student and total grading time. Use a stopwatch on your phone or computer to keep you focused and on time.
- Ask questions! The Graide Network team is here to help! Text us at 646-200-5768 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What Does Effective Feedback Look Like?
Feedback, by definition, is objective information on someone's performance in relation to a goal. What worked? What didn't? The fastest way to improve your feedback to students (and impress teachers!) is to make sure it is full of this helpful information. Get super specific in your references to the student's writing and in your examples and guidance. Even if students aren't revising this particular piece of work, they'll have an easier time understanding how to apply your comments to future writing.
LOVE IT: "You did a good job explaining the reasons why the evidence you chose was relevant. In your second paragraph, you clearly described the pet banks and why they were more effective for the middle class. This shows good understanding of the historical topic."
This feedback says exactly what the student did well (supporting evidence), where they did it (in the paragraph discussing pet banks), and an added bonus - why it was effective (demonstrates content mastery)
LOVE IT: "Make sure to tie everything back to the thesis. While your points on the National Bank are good, the example of the Trail of Tears does not seem relevant to the thesis related to the common man."
Again, this feedback directly references the student work. The Graider indicates the specific area for student growth (tying everything back to the thesis) and where in the work the student was off track (Trail of Tears example).
LOVE IT: "This essay lacks some analysis. Your points are good, but you need to fully flesh out how the points contribute to your thesis. Explain why the changes made during this time period were successful and why the policies before were not."
The student knows what is missing in their writing (detailed analysis) and exactly what they need to do to revise their work and make it stronger.
LOVE IT: "Organization is key to a high scoring essay. Next time, be sure to clearly distinguish an introductory/thesis paragraph, body paragraphs, and a separate conclusion/synthesis paragraph, with a focus on clear and strong transition sentences."
This feedback shows the student exactly what they need to focus on in future assignments to improve their writing (organization).
NEEDS WORK: "You didn’t fully address the prompt in your thesis."
What exactly is missing in the thesis?
NEEDS WORK: "Some of your organization and sentence structure is awkward."
Which parts? Where?
NEEDS WORK: "Great conclusion!"
Empty praise. The student does not know specifically what they did well or what about the conclusion was strong.
NEEDS WORK: "Good start on the draft! Now just try to clean it up and shorten it."
If the student knew how to “clean up the work” they would have done it already. While it seems directive, this feedback doesn’t give the student a good idea of next steps.
NEEDS WORK: "You’ve made great progress since your last essay. Keep up the great work!"
What has the student progressed on? What else should they do?
NEEDS WORK: "Your tone is, at times, informal. Go further with your historical analysis. Also, you need more from your thesis to fully address the prompt."
All of this feedback is lacking detail and direction. Where is the tone informal? Where is the analysis lacking? What is lacking in the thesis? The student needs more information so they can build plan of action for revisions.
Special Circumstances While Grading
While you are grading, you should be mindful of student citations and know what to do in cases of incomplete work, possible plagiarism, or writing on sensitive topics.
Like grammar and conventions, you should score according to the rubric, but generally should not focus on citations in your feedback. We often don't know exactly what students have been told to do, especially for drafts. If you are asked to check them, or if a student has used citations so incorrectly or inconsistently that it is distracting or hard to distinguish what parts of their writing come from outside sources, you can point them to the following resources (based on which formatting style they are using) and can also flag this to the teacher in the Class Summary write-up.
If you suspect plagiarism or if you notice that two students have copied each other's work, please send the teacher a message immediately and let them know which student(s) and where the suspected plagiarism is located in their essay. Teachers have their own procedures for handling plagiarism. Your job is simply to alert them. In your feedback, you can assume the best of the student(s): perhaps they don't realize how to properly cite outside sources or don't realize they have not effectively made the argument their own. In the case of copied work, perhaps students were allowed to work together.
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.
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, but 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. Unless there's truly not enough to grade, 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 develop their ideas further.
Sensitive Student Work
Student writing provides opportunities for students to be vulnerable. When you are reading and grading student writing, it is possible you will encounter personal accounts or hints at violence, self-harm, abuse, neglect, bullying, or other similarly sensitive content. If you encounter this or suspect a student may need help, it is your responsibility to immediately send a message to the teacher. Include the student’s name so that the teacher is aware of the situation and can check in with the student and follow up as necessary. This is absolutely critical in cases where a student may be in danger.
Advice from Graiders
Preparation & Manage your Time
"Especially at first, assignments would take me a long time. I really had to figure out what works best for me. First, figure out any questions you have about assignment and get those answered by the teacher well in advance. Then you will have everything you need to start grading when you’re ready."
- Regan Jolley, University of Georgia
"It’s incredibly beneficial to reach out to the teacher for guidance and support - you can clarify the prompt or rubric, ask questions about specific student assignments, or simply introduce yourself. Maintaining communication with the teacher will set you up for success - helping to ensure that you are doing the best work for the students and having the greatest impact."
- Jacob Duty, Ohio University
Remember the goal
"At first read, an essay might seem good, but when I referenced the rubric, I often realized that the student may have missed the assignment’s goal. After experiencing rubrics from a teacher’s perspective, I have come to appreciate rubrics in a whole new way."
- Lisa McGovern, University of Illinois
Prepare & Get Clarification
“I take my time setting up the assignment, reading and understanding the rubric and guidelines from the teacher, and making sure I have all the information I need to fully understand the teacher’s expectations. I go slower when grading the first few students, but then the time per student drops as I’m able to make quicker judgements and have a baseline for my feedback.”
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. “One of the most challenging things is when the teacher isn’t completely clear or the directions are confusing.” In situations like this, it’s always best to reach out to the teacher directly to make sure you’re on the same page.
- Andrew Martin, University of Illinois
“When giving feedback, it is more than what you say, it is how you say it. Approach tough topics gently and anchor them with a lot of praise."
- Cas Macsisak, Point Park University
Rely on the Rubric
"Pay extra-close attention to the rubric, and reference it as much as possible in your feedback! It’s designed to make grading so much easier (and more consistent) by providing you with everything you need to know!"
And ask for help! "At times, evaluating work was difficult. I did not want to be the one to mark an answer wrong! The awesome Graide Network Team, though, was always there to lend a helping hand."
- Ina Zaimi, University of Michigan
Take student work seriously!
“Whenever you are giving feedback, be reflective, thoughtful, and sincere. Students will take your words to heart and learn from them. This is your chance to make a real impact. I still remember feedback I got from my 8th-grade English teacher, and I reflect on it when I write.”
- Douglas Clark, Biola University
Why is feedback so important?
We've compiled the body of research for you here:
Seven Keys to Effective Feedback by Grant Wiggins - This article defines feedback by outlining seven keys to providing effective feedback: goal-referenced, tangible and transparent, actionable, user-friendly, timely, ongoing, and consistent.
The Perils and Promises of Praise by Carol Dweck, PhD. - This article explores the effects of praise on a students' mindset linking process praise to growth-mindsets.
5 Research-Based Tips for Providing Students with Meaningful Feedback by Marianne Stenger - This article highlights the importance of specificity and framing when giving feedback.
The Ultimate Guide to Feedback for Educators by Chad Jardine - This article connects native feedback to feedback on performance, and gives strategies to promote student receptivity to feedback.
Seven Ways to Give Better Feedback to Your Students by Bradley Busch - This article gives tips on framing your feedback effectively to reach students at their respective ability levels.