It’s not only about errors
I admit it. I’m a slacker with regards to actively participating in Shelly Terrell’ #30goals. It’s certainly not because I think they aren’t worth my time or not applicable to my teaching, but for one reason or another, they’ve been put on the sidelines this February, along with active blogging and commenting on others’ blogs. I go through cycles of motivation. When my time outside of the classroom isn’t taken up with prep or marking, I can get very caught up in the posts my PLN make and spend inordinate amounts of time reading, contemplating and commenting on them. Then the daily classes, text readings and strategy for the students in our program takes up so much of my brain power, that my motivation for anything else gets sucked up in the process. During these times, my feedback to students also becomes less detailed and even less positive—a kind of bare bones approach to written feedback you could say.
Giving writing feedback
Do any of these statements sound familiar? When you receive written work from your students, you end up concentrating only on mechanical, structural or stylistic errors. You have a legend of marking codes that tell your students the kind of error they’ve made in a vague way so that they can go back and try it again. But how do our students feel when they receive back their written work with only these vague indicators of error? Certainly for those that have a strong sense of their abilities the few red scratches could be motivators to improve for next time, but for those students who already believe they aren’t very strong, I’m realising it could potentially be quite crushing. This is why I’ve taken a new, more engaged approach and it leads me to Shelly’s Goal #10: Plant a seed of belief.
Here is an example of what I mean. I had students read some international students’ experiences about the differences between writing in their countries and writing in Western universities (Module 10 of Transferable Academic Skills Kit). My question for students was “Which person’s experiences do you identify with and why?” These images are of one student’s freewriting submission to me. The first shows what I typically would have given back. The image on the right is what I’ve actually given back, incorporating my reflections on the #30goals.