Giving Effective Feedback

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?

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What Counts as Writing?

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When we incorporate writing into our courses through writing to learn activities, learning to write assignments, or both, we have made the conscious decision that writing is an important tool for facilitating learning. While we may agree that incorporating writing and writing instruction into our courses is important, how often do we stop to ask ourselves what counts as writing?

How we answer this question shapes the ways we teach with writing in our classrooms; it determines the concepts, strategies, skills, and knowledge we teach when we teach writing; it defines the kinds of activities and products we assign in our courses; and it governs how we provide feedback on and evaluate student writing.

So, what counts as writing? Continue reading

Supporting the Transfer of Student Writing Knowledge

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Faculty who teach with writing in upper-level courses often ask about the prior literacy learning of students in their courses. Many of these faculty are uncertain about what their students have learned and what they need to learn in order to perform well on writing projects. Because they know students have taken writing courses, they want to know how best to leverage that prior learning. In other words, they are curious about how to support the transfer of prior writing knowledge. So, what can faculty who teach with writing do to facilitate that transfer? Continue reading

Small Ways to Integrate Writing into Your Course

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One of the first questions that faculty new to teaching writing across the disciplines ask is: how do I add writing to what I’m already doing in my class? Balancing content and writing instruction is a difficult task, and often we feel like we just can’t fit everything in. And while teaching a writing course might carry extra expectations, faculty are often surprised to learn that small writing-to-learn activities can add a lot of value while not requiring a lot of work. Continue reading

Karyn Kessler Offers 5 Tips for Academic Success

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As teachers, we recognize that academic success isn’t based only on cognitive abilities; it is also significantly impacted by social practices and emotional well-being.  But sometimes, we aren’t always certain how to articulate that for our students.  That is why today we are sharing a video from our friend Karyn Kessler, Interim Academic Director of INTO Mason, in which she talks about her five tips for academic success.  While she directs her advice to students studying in international contexts, much of it also applies to students studying in their hometowns and the faculty who teach them.  We summarize her tips below. Continue reading

Writers of Mason: Hanna Vandergrift

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“I hear a lot of writers and a lot of people worry that they’re not good enough, they’re insecure about their writing, they don’t think that they’re a good writer and that nothing is ever going to come of it. And that’s really sad because probably someone saw their writing at some point and was like ‘oh that’s stupid’ and they don’t ever want to write again. So my mentality now has been ‘fuck it, write it,’ if you want to write it then do it.”

Hanna Vandergrift is an English Major at George Mason University.

Exploring One Faculty Member’s Decision to Stop Writing on Student Papers

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When it comes to feedback, students often fear the image of a professor armed with red pens, poised to slash away at the words that they have lovingly crafted.  As professors, however, we are more often than not trying to give students insight into how we might develop their drafts so that they might move their work forward.  But, frequently, the revisions students make don’t seem to connect with the feedback that we give. So we have to wonder: do these painstaking comments really make a difference? Continue reading

Helping Students Revise

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In our last post, we discussed the qualities of good feedback.  But as many writing teachers know, giving good feedback is only part of the equation; students still need to use that feedback in order to revise their drafts and develop as writers.  And this second part of the equation can be a significant challenge for many writing teachers and students alike; as Katherine Gottschalk and Keith Hjortshoj note, drafts can sometimes become “like concrete:” once they begin to set, they aren’t likely to see changes deeper than the surface.  So, the question becomes: how do we help students use our feedback and revise their writing? Continue reading