Tag: Correction

My Webinar: “Assessing and Marking Writing: Feedback Strategies to Involve the Learners”

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of hosting a webinar (my first ever!) for IATEFL’s TEA SIG. For those who weren’t able to join in, here’s a run down and a link to the video!

Assessing  Marking Writing TEASIG PPT_002This talk provides teachers with time-efficient strategies for giving feedback on EFL learners’ writing which actively involve the learners. I present and evaluate several learner-centred feedback strategies that are applicable to giving feedback on written work in diverse contexts, by presenting summaries of published research which explores their efficacy. I also explain the mechanisms underpinning the strategies’ effectiveness, in order to further aid teachers in making informed choices pertaining to their specific class groups.

Watch the webinar recording here.

The webinar was followed by a live Facebook discussion. Check it out here.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the Facebook discussion: 

Clare Fielder  Someone asked: Have you ever tried developing an online digital dialogue around feedback points? Not exactly sure what you mean here, I’m afraid. I’ve used Google Docs to get peer review going – is that something in the direction you’re asking about?

Sharon Hartle Sharon Hartle I use wikispaces and learners can comment on specific points and then develop a dialogue. Here’s a quick clip of what I mean
Sharon Hartle's photo.
Clare Fielder Clare Fielder This sounds like something similar to Google Docs with the comments function. I used that last year with my students, most of them liked it, but lost energy and motivation for it by the end of term… Maybe because it’s just one more platform that they have to remember to check?
Sharon Hartle Sharon Hartle Once again, I think it is a question of guidance and structuring, as you said. If you limit it to asking them to comment on two posts, for instance, and then reintegrate it all into class it works well. It also remains for later reference, like now. 🙂
Clare Fielder Clare Fielder Our VLP doesn’t have this kind of function (well, it doesn’t work well and is hard to use) which is why I opted for Google. I definitely like the idea, because then students get feedback from various peers, not just the one who was given their work in class on peer review day! Also, you can include LDF into that – students can pose their questions on their work when they post it there, and then all the group members can help answer them! That’s a great idea!
Sharon Hartle Sharon Hartle I’ve also experimented with iAnnotate for ipad and Schoology, which is also good.
Clare Fielder Clare Fielder Yes, I agree, limiting it to two comments or so does help, but doesn’t encourage them to really engage in discussion and dialogue. But, as with everything in ELT, it depends! It depends on the students, context, goals, etc.
Where I am it’s all pretty low-tech. I still have chalk boards in my classrooms! 😀

Sharon Hartle Sharon Hartle Well tech is only as good as tech does, isn’t it and there was a time when the blackboard was considered high tech 🙂
Clare FielderClare Fielder Only if you had coloured chalk! 😉
Sharon HartleSharon Hartle Thanks Clare, for staying around and developing this discussion, which is very interesting 🙂

 

For more information about IATEFL’s TEA SIG – Teaching, Evaluation & Assessment Special Interest Group – you can find their website here.

TEA-Sig

 

Advertisement

Marking Writing: Feedback Strategies to Challenge the Red Pen’s Reign – IATEFL 2016

By popular demand…

My handout from my presentation held at IATEFL 2016 in Birmingham, with the above title.

Clare IATEFL 2016 presentation

Abstract:

This talk provides teachers with time-efficient alternatives to traditional ‘red-pen correction’, by demonstrating and evaluating several effective feedback strategies that are applicable to giving feedback on writing in diverse contexts, and presenting summaries of published research which explores their efficacy. Issues including learner autonomy, motivation, and the role of technology are also briefly discussed to underpin the practical ideas presented.

Handout can be downloaded here: IATEFL 2016 conference Clare Fielder Works Cited handout.

Clare IATEFL 2016 presentation 2

Help! Overwhelmed by research!

This is a short, rather personal post; a bit of a call for help! In my head, thoughts are flying around: researching, compiling bibliographies, literature reviews, not having enough time in the day to read everything properly, wasting time reading the ‘wrong’ things, and feeling swapmed and out-of-touch with the latest state of affairs…. And this is going to (hopefully) be an outlet that gets these thoughts out of my head and onto “paper” so that I can concentrate… Oh, and maybe get some tips from readers while I’m at it!!

IMAG0494
What my brain feels like. An art installation on the Moselle river made by Trier Art Academy (Kunstakademie) 2015. 

 

So, I like to think that I’m pretty good at keeping up with the research regarding my areas of ELT. I subscribe to a couple of journals, am active on twitter and I read lots of blogs, so I feel like I’m in touch with big debates and what’s generally going on in the ELT world. 

But now I’m trying to get together some of the ‘best’ literature on the topic of correcting (EAP) students’ writing. I want to summarise the main work and findings in this area. But there is JUST SO MUCH!! I’ve got some key names and some meta-study articles have also been helpful. But I feel like I might be missing out on some other definitive contributions, key strands of work, relevant studies, contaversial issues, etc.  When I search my university’s library databases, the lists are endless of articles on peer review, using technology, to correct or not to correct, learner autonomy, and so on and on and on.

I can’t possibly read everything. I thought about reading through the Works Cited lists and trying to find sources that seem to be cited a lot… but even that would be so much work. 

And I wonder how anyone ever manages to keep up with it all. Whenever I think I’ve “finished” and have a suitable bibliography together, so another blog post alerts me to a new perspective on the discussion, or Google Scholar pops up with a few hundred more published articles… When is enough enough? When can I stop? It’s never going to be  truly finished, is it?!

#BridgingtheGapChallenge Hand-Written vs Emailed Corrective Feedback on Writing

As part of the #BridgingtheGapChallenge, here is a summary of:

Farshi, S.S. & S.K. Safa, ‘The Effect of Two Types of Corrective Feedback on EFL Learners’ Writing Skill’, Advances in Language and Literary Studies, Vol 6/1, February 2015.

This study aimed to compare the effectiveness of giving hand-written or electronic (via email) feedback on EFL learners’ written work.

Participants & Procedure

Thirty-five adult participants were involved in the stud; Azeri-Turkish speakers, who were learning English at a language institute in Iran. They were divided into three separate class groups, which met twice a week for 7 weeks and taught by the same teacher. All groups covered the same material in class and were given a writing task each week based on the lesson’s focus. Depending on which group participants they were in, they received feedback on their work in a different format: Group A: Submitted paper-versions of their work and received hand-written feedback. Group B: Submit their work by email and received their feedback electronically. Group C: Submitted their work either on paper or by email, but received no feedback from the teacher. Groups A and B revised their paragraphs using the feedback they received. Before the study, students completed pre-test writing tasks (writing two separate paragraphs), graded by three teachers, and the KET proficiency test and were found to have comparable levels of proficiency in English. They post-test score was also based on two written paragraphs, graded by three teachers. The pre-test and post-test scores were given in numerical format, on a scale from 0-20 (where 20 is good).

Findings

A paired-samples T-test (test of significant difference) was used to compare participants’ pre-test and post-test scores. On the pre-test scores, there was no significant difference between the three groups. On the post-test scores (i.e. the grades students achieved on the assessment after having received the various feedbacks on their work for 7 weeks), both Group A’s and Group B’s scores were significantly higher than those of Group C, who had received no corrective feedback on their writing. The researchers conclude that both hand-written and electronic feedback therefore have a positive impact on students’ writing skill. The key finding, though, is the significant difference between the improvements shown by participants in Groups A and B; where Group B (who had received electronic feedback) scored significantly higher than Group A (hand-written feedback), which would seem to show that feedback received electronically is more effective at improving students’ writing than hand-written feedback is.

My Own Thoughts

I can postulate various explanations for the benefit of giving feedback electronically: it feels more personal to the students, the teacher can perhaps include more detailed feedback, it is motivating for students to use their electronic devices for the English learning, etc. It would have been interesting to see what the researchers thought were the explanations for their findings.

It would also be good to know what kind of level their learners were at in their English proficiency – perhaps the effectiveness of certain feedback formats depends on level?

And also, what kind of feedback exactly was given – actual corrections? simply underlining? Comments to start a dialogue? Use of a correction code? I wonder whether these differences might have an even more significant effect on students’ improvement than simply the mode of delivery of the feedback?

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.

Directness in Feedback

I’m a big fan of giving detailed constructive feedback on students’ work. As far as I’m concerned, feedback, both positive and negative, is essential for learning to happen. I try to think carefully about how I phrase my feedback to students so that they are encouraged to improve further, and can use it to move forward and progress in their learning. Occasionally, though, I read a piece of work that generates such a strong reaction in me that I simply write down my undiluted opinion. Of course, if the reaction was positive, this means the student is showered with undiluted praise. But sometimes the reaction is negative and I write things like this:

IMAG0107

I actually sent this picture to a colleague and asked, “too harsh?”  It made me stop and think.

As teachers, we all know that feedback should be clear, specific, and honest. I’m a proficient user of the ‘feedback sandwich’. Usually.  But in the case above, it seems that “being clear and honest” means that there is no ‘bread’ in my ‘sandwich’. It is very direct. I wonder how the student will react?

From previous chats with students and a few informal surveys, I’ve noticed that students often actually prefer to have feedback worded rather directly, and they are not put off by what some of us might perceive as pretty harsh directness.  Especially for EFL students, beating about the bush, and phrasing things cautiously and politely actually confuses the message. In fact, some students have reported extreme misunderstandings where their teacher had expressed criticism so politely and gently that the student actually perceived it as praise! I showed the photo above to friends of mine who are also students and non-native English speakers, and their response also echoed that of my own students:

If it’s the truth, it has to be said, and it’s better to be direct so that the message cannot be misunderstood.

Still, I started thinking about how I would feel. Depending on how much effort I had actually put in to the piece of work, I’d probably be quite upset to receive feedback like in the photo. Not just because it’s negative, but rather because it only describes the problem and doesn’t really encourage me to work on improving. It might give me the feeling that there’s no hope of ever passing this class, and so I might as well give up now. And that is NOT how I would like my students to feel!

So what am I going to change when giving feedback? How about some tips for us all…

1) Be clear and direct so that praise and constructive criticism are perceived as such.

2) Be generous (but not over-generous) with praise, even for small improvements or minor elements that have been done well.

3) Be specific with explanations of the problems, and prioritise these.

4) Give specific advice for how these problems can be improved.

5) Encourage some response from students regarding the feedback they’ve been given. This will (hopefully!) encourage them to engage with the feedback, and also give an indication of how it has been perceived and used.