Providing Feedback to Writers

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We want our students to grow as writers, and here CMU students and faculty talk about how to offer helpful feedback on writing assignments. Beginning with the idea that useful feedback is timely, specific, and goal-oriented, this video discusses a range of topics – from helping students overcome negative reactions to strategies that keep a spotlight on the intellectual purpose of assignments. CMU faculty discuss ways to help students understand the thinking and writing moves that are common among authors in various fields of study. Also, Troy Hicks suggests ways of delivering feedback that include recording and sending voice messages, hosting individual feedback sessions, and combining a variety of feedback approaches. 

Navigate to resources for Module 5.

Encouraging Students to Revise Their Writing

The National Council of Teachers of English suggest that writing, as a tool for thinking, 

helps us to understand the process of drafting and revision as one of exploration and discovery, and is nothing like transcribing from pre-recorded tape. The writing process is not one of simply fixing up the mistakes in an early draft, but of finding more and more wrinkles and implications in what one is talking about. (para. 13)​

A variety of strategies help students engage deeply in the process of revision. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2016) offers a student-friendly list of revision strategies, including "Examine the balance within your paper," "Check that you have kept your promises to your readers," and "Ask lots of questions and don't flinch from answering them truthfully." These types of tips are helpful for students to consider, yet are not enough if we want students to make substantive revisions to their writing.

As instructors, we can model a variety of strategies in front of our students to help them view their drafts with a fresh perspective:

  • Using the commenting feature in a word processor, write one brief sentence about the purpose of each paragraph in the essay. Evaluate the ways in which each paragraph does – or does not –  contribute to the overall effectiveness of the argument.
  • Again, using a word processor, enter a line break after each sentence in one paragraph to provide space between each one. Then, discuss the length and variety of each sentence. Do they all start in similar ways? Are any of the sentences compound or complex? How do transitional words and phrases affect the overall meaning?
  • Employ sentence templates to provide structure. Graff and Birkenstein (2014), in their book They Say/I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing, provide numerous templates for introducing ideas from other writers, explaining one's own argument, and providing meta-commentary on an issue.
  • Model your own writing process as a "think aloud" in class using the computer or visualizer. Invite students to think with you as you craft your words into sentences and paragraphs.
  • Review feedback you have received from colleagues or editors with your students. Show them the kinds of comments that professional writers receive, both positive and negative.  

You could also describe your favorite revising techniques and show students how various drafts of your writing have evolved. Encourage your students to revise by using a positive, productive tone and by offering specific suggestions about their writing which will extend beyond this single assignment.

Resources

A Google Doc Containing Sentence Templates for They Say/I Say

Editing-Oriented Versus Revision-O​riented Feedback

Tools for Commenting on Student Work


References

​Graff, H. J., & Birkenstein, C. (2014). "They Say / I Say": The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing (Third Edition edition). New York: W. W. Norton & Company.​​

National Council of Teachers of English. (2004). NCTE beliefs about the teaching of writing.

Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (n.d.). Revising drafts.​