Month: July 2013

How to Mark Written Work Effectively – Involving the Learners

Peer Correction

Learners proof read their classmates’ work and give feedback on language (if their own abilities are strong enough), structure and/or content. One problem here is that many students are not yet able to identify such errors on their own, although this method does provide practice in proof reading which may benefit their own future writing, and they will still be able to take on the role of “real audience” to make comments on structure and content. Feedback can be given orally, based on notes students make whilst reading, or they can write a letter expressing their feedback. Example peer feedback guidelines and questions are:

  • When giving feedback on peers’ work, please consider the questions below and write your responses on a separate sheet in a letter to the author. There’s no need to answer the question individually, but please respond to them in one text. Remember, you are not expected to be an expert, but simply to offer as much constructive criticism and helpful feedback as possible.
  •  What are the words, phrases or sentences that stand out to you as strong points in the piece of work?
  • Does the introductory sentence / paragraph tell you what the piece of writing is about? Is it clear what to expect from the work when you read the opening lines? Do they inspire you to read on?
  • Are you confused by anything in the paper? Or is there anything you think the author should phrase differently to make it clearer?
  • Does the piece of writing end with a sense of completion, having logically moved through the points and tying up the main ideas of the paper in a conclusion?
  • Are there any spelling or grammar inaccuracies the author should be aware of?
  • What do you like best about this piece of writing?

(These guidelines are adapted from Guidelines for Giving Peer Feedback by L. Hutchinson)

Re-drafting based on the feedback is the most logical next step – and means that by the time the writing reaches the tutor, it’s already been proof read by the author and one peer. This should save time in two ways: a) the tutor doesn’t have read the drafts, only the final versions b) there should be fewer areas of difficulty since they will have had feedback on the most obvious weaknesses already.

Respond to Students’ Individual Queries

  1. Many errors students make are due to ‘experimenting’ with new language, which is part of the learning process. Getting students to write a number of questions (poss. 3-5) on their essay when handing it and responding in particular to these when marking the draft, helps them make the most of their own learning. Example questions might be, “I wasn’t sure how to join these paragraphs, does this transitional phrase really work here, or are there better alternatives?”
  2. This approach may be particularly useful if students are required to submit drafts of their essays, and also helps tutors save time marking drafts and re-drafts in detail.

(Cottrell, S., Teaching Study Skills & Supporting Learning (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001))

Start a feedback dialogue

The dialogue can be based on students’ individual questions (above) and can take a number of forms, for example by email, audio recordings, face-to-face meetings. This method allows the student writer to maintain control over their piece of writing and ensures that their ‘voice’ is not co-opted by the teacher reformulating their phrasing and sentences. The aim of the dialogue should focus less on ‘correcting’ and more on guiding the learner to identify and fix the problems in their writing, to check their new ideas and edits, and to grow in confidence as an independent writer.

How to Mark Written Work Effectively – Preventing Future Errors

Most of the time when we mark pieces of written work by EFL learners, our aim is to provide feedback on their language usage which enables them to avoid repeating their errors in future writing. It is logical, then, that simply underlining and correcting errors, as is the most common marking method, may not be as effective at achieving this aim as we may hope. Here are a few different ways of marking written work and scaffolding students’ drafting, where the focus is clearly on preventing future errors.

1)      Search & Correct

–      In the margin of the line where an incorrect word/phrase has been used, an X is written by the tutor. The students are then asked to locate/identify the mistakes and correct them. This can also be done with correction symbols, which help to highlight the type of error, but no mistakes are underlined in the text, so students have to use their own judgment.Having to consider what they may have done wrong and finding a way to improve their own language helps means that learners are more likely to remember the correct version and the reasoning behind it, which should help them to avoid making the same mistake in future writing.

–      This method also saves the tutor’s time as they do not spend time correcting things that students actually are able to produce correctly but due to time pressure / lack of concentration have made mistakes with in this specific piece of work.

2)      References to Grammar Textbook or Dictionary

–      Mistakes are underlined in the text and numbered according to pages or passages in a grammar textbook or learners’ dictionary that the class is working with or the learners otherwise have access to. Students are then instructed to look up the explanations of the language structure or lexis they are attempting to use and are able to correct their own mistakes. They can then re-draft their writing, or simply use this information in their next piece of writing.

3)      Correction Table

–      The incorrect words/phrases are underlined in the text, with or without a correction symbol to denote the type of error. Students complete a table like the example below where they write out the underlined errors, and look up the correction themselves, inserting this and the related explanation into the column ‘reason & correction’, and noting the source of their information. These tables are useful for students in understanding their errors and for reference when in future writing assignments to avoid repeating mistakes. These tables allow each student to focus on their individual areas of difficulty. There’s no need for re-drafting.

Example extract from correction table:

Mistake Type of mistake Reason & Correction
Source
1)…get used to be Verb conjugation The expression ‘used to’ is either followed by a noun or by a gerund.Correct: get used to being OALD 7, key word ‘used’, p. 1689~ to sth/to doing sth