Accessible Version | Skip to content | Change your text size

Table Of Contents

Previous pageNext page

Giving feedback (2)

What to give feedback about

The feedback that students seemed to feel most valuable addressed the content and the organization of the assignment, and the extent to which the assignment addressed the topic.

You may certainly want to point out a limited number of characteristic language difficulties, and refer the student to a resource like Language and Learning Online Opens in a new window, or to language and learning support staff Opens in a new window for further assistance. But while detailed grammar corrections throughout the assignment may be appreciated as confirmation that the work has been closely read through (see above), they are unlikely to contribute much to language learning, and may obscure feedback comments that are of greater utility to the student.

Schmitt makes the following comment:

Remember that international students are still language learners, and set realistic standards for their language use

All students have issues relating to the newness of the language of their academic discipline, but Shaw & Liu (1998) report that students are likely to exhibit three kinds of linguistic problems:

  • inappropriacy
  • inaccuracy, and
  • lack of linguistic resources.

Evidence suggests that second-language writers will make most progress with inappropriacy.

An emphasis on accuracy may result in students copying for fear of making mistakes. Good writers prioritise meaning over form. It is a characteristic of weak writers to give priority to form and this can have a paralysing effect on writing fluency.

Schmitt, 2005, pp. 72; formatting modified.

How to give feedback

  • Comments in the margin tend to be cryptic; handwritten comments anywhere can be hard even for native speakers to read. Numbers in the margin that refer to a numbered list of printed comments on a separate sheet can be much more satisfactory.
  • To counter the inevitable tendency to accentuate the negative, you can set yourself the discipline of designing a summary feedback sheet which requires you to comment first of all (or last of all) on the aspects of the work that pleased you.
  • If the marking of your course assignments involves more than one person, plan the marking procedures together to maximise consistency across different markers.

Advantages of electronic assignment submission

  • If the assignment is an electronic file, you can insert feedback in the form of comments, footnotes or endnotes which can be as long as you like.
  • If you and your student have the appropriate technology at hand, it is a simple matter to insert spoken-word comments into a file as audio-files.
  • It is easy to add one or more pages at the beginning or the end of the file for summary feedback.
  • When you return the commented file to the student, you retain your own copy of the file and the feedback you have added to it. If your LMS ( MUSO Opens in a new window at Monash) is appropriately configured, these files can be stored on a shared server, where you and/or others can refer to them at a later date for moderation or other purposes.
  • From a corpus of annotated files collected in this way you can extract a store of recurrent comments or comment-templates which can be pasted into future assignments where appropriate. The insertion of such comments can be automated to some degree if you know how to write the necessary macros for your word-processor.
word outputDownload a printable version of this page (.doc ~10Kb)
Problems? Questions? Comments? Please provide us feedback.