Professional Development

Written Corrective Feedback

Alastair Horne

In the second of our double bill of webinars last week, Jeanne Lambert joined us to share some tips for making written corrective feedback (WCF) effective for learners while saving teachers time. Jeanne is series editor of our new academic writing course Final Draft, and has twenty years’ experience in the classroom and preparing teaching materials.

Jeanne began by sharing her own feelings about grading papers – one of the most time-consuming aspects of teachers’ work, and yet one that so often seems to produce at best mixed results: too often second drafts come back with all the same errors as the first version.

Effective WCF encourages active learning by enabling students to become their own editors. And yet it can be difficult for students to understand some of the feedback they get, and some may feel reluctant to make the effort. When feedback consists largely of crossing out errors, and replacing them with correct forms, this makes learning passive, because it requires minimal processing on the part of the student. Students who receive this type of feedback are not being provided with the tools that will enable them to edit their own work successfully.

Conversely, pointing out errors without correcting them (‘indirect WCF’) places the student in a much more active role, but can also become discouraging for learners who may feel overwhelmed by a large number of errors, or by the lack of support explicitly provided by such feedback.

Metalinguistic feedback, or ‘error-coding’, adds support to indirect feedback: students are provided with a code for each error that explains what is wrong so that they can actively fix the error for themselves.

Jeanne also looked at the merits of focused and unfocused (or comprehensive) feedback: targeting one or two particular types of error, versus correcting all (or at least most) errors. Though many teachers prefer the former, at least in theory, believing that the latter can overwhelm students, in practice they often tend to correct all the errors they find, partly because they don’t want to leave errors uncorrected.

To hear Jeanne’s suggestions for providing better feedback, click play on the video below. To find out more about Final Draft, our new academic writing course, click here.

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