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
- 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?”
- 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.
- Shaw, H., Errors in English and Ways to Correct Them: The Practical Approach to Correct Word Usage, Sentence Structure, Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar (Harper, 1993)
- The Importance of Effective Descriptive Feedback (lblakelifelonglearner.wordpress.com)
- How to Mark Written Work Effectively – Clarifying Errors (clareseltcompendium.wordpress.com)
- How to Mark Written Work Effectively – Preventing Future Errors (clareseltcompendium.wordpress.com)
- How To Mark Written Work Effectively – Using Underlining (clareseltcompendium.wordpress.com)