Today, Tuesday 2nd October, was the inaugural meeting of the newly formed “Giving formative feedback on student writing” scholarship circle which will take place weekly on Tuesdays here at the USIC arm of the ELTC. (For more information about what scholarship circles involve, please look here and for write-ups of previous scholarship circles, here.)
With a healthy turn-out of ten teachers, the main goal for this initial meeting was to pin down what we want to get out of the sessions and how we are going to achieve it. We started with these questions:
- What are we all here for?
- What do we want to learn?
- What shall we do with this scholarship circle?
We established that we were all there because we want to be able to give students better feedback. By better, we mean the right kind of feedback: feedback that they will a) be able to understand and b) benefit from. We therefore want to avoid the situation in which we put a lot of effort into producing feedback on their work and they don’t use it.
Our particular focus for this is first drafts of coursework assignments. We have CW1 which is an essay outline and CW3 which is either an essay based on the essay outline (foundation students) or a synoptic assignment research proposal (pre-masters students).
These are some of the questions that we want to answer, or respond to, in the course of this scholarship circle (the list may grow or change over the course of the scholarship circle, this is just our starting point):
- How much feedback can students cope with? What is the right amount to give them?
- What language should be used? (H’obviously this doesn’t translate as should we give feedback in English or Mandarin…)
- How can we help students to access/use feedback more effectively? This includes Quick Marks (i.e. error correction code, on Turnitin), in-text comments and general comments, as well as helping students use them in combination. We also have some evidence from research done on our students suggesting that students prefer specific in-text comments as they are more memorable long-term than Quick Marks, which is something to keep in mind.
- How can we help teachers use Quick Marks more effectively and consistently?
- How and when do we praise students’ work? How do we do this most effectively, without seeming insincere?
From these questions, we settled on a short list of things to do:
- Read “Sugaring the Pill: Praise and criticism in written feedback” by Fiona Hyland and Ken Hyland in Journal of Second Language Writing, so that we can discuss it next week. Dana Ferris was also recommended as a good author for sources about feedback.
- Discuss and standardise our use of Quick Marks in a future Scholarship Circle meeting.
- Discuss designing/creating learner training materials/classes to help our students develop independent use of formative feedback to correct their errors.
It was a short but fruitful session, setting us up nicely for our future weekly meetings. Watch this space for future posts tracking our progress and my reflections on our journey! 🙂