So you are responsible for teaching writing to 150 students you see every day. You may be paperless, but you are drowning in digital submissions. And, of course, you want to give students the writing feedback they need and deserve so they will become effective writers who are ready for college or a career.
How do you juggle your students’ needs as well as your own needs for weekends spent with friends and family or binge watching the latest Netflix series? Do you abandon your students by dropping your feedback duties in favor of a weekend of skiing? Not exactly. The writing feedback students receive has long been recognized as a key component of writing development as well as a pillar of formative assessment.
The good news is that you have some vested partners to share this important work with you. The better news is that state-of-the-art, easy-to-use digital tools exist to help you manage the feedback process. And perhaps the best news is that involving these partners will contribute more to students’ writing growth than if you spent every waking moment of your existence providing feedback.
To cut down on the work required to provide feedback from your end, consider a writing process that includes these three elements.
Assuming a major goal of your teaching is to instill independence, confidence, and self-reliance, self-review is a key component of the feedback cycle. Feedback should help students develop self-regulatory skills so they can learn about their own learning. Metacognition is the cornerstone of learning transfer, and learning transfer enables students to be lifelong learners.
“When students have the metacognitive skills of self- assessment, they can evaluate their levels of understanding, their effort and strategies used on tasks, their attributions and opinions of others about their performance, and their improvement in relation to their goals and expectations,” John Hattie and Helen Timperley argue in a 2007 journal article. And, as documented nearly 30 years ago by Wang, Haertel, and Walberg, “Metacognition has been suggested to be the most powerful predictor of learning.”
In “Achieving Writing Proficiency: The Research on Practice, Feedback, and Revision,” Dr. Troy Hicks highlights numerous research studies that point to the effectiveness of peer review in accelerating students’ writing gains. Peer review is highly useful—both for the reviewer and the person receiving the feedback. Students engaged in peer review internalize the criteria for high-quality writing and integrate those criteria into their own writing. The act of reviewing helps students build metacognition that drives additional reflection of key writing skills and gains in proficiency. The act of being reviewed by an authentic audience drives purpose and a more successful push into high-quality revision.
Also, as research indicates, feedback scores from peers are “highly correlated with expert scores and the average weighted peer scores were statistically equivalent to expert scores.” But successful implementation of peer review requires scaffolding for student reviewers to help them analyze writing and give meaningful and specific feedback.
Teacher Review Using Digital Tools
You probably already recognize the importance of teacher review and feedback. After all, your recognition of its value is why you are grading papers at night and on weekends. Many studies document that specific text-based feedback by teachers leads to significantly better revisions by students. The challenge remains: How can you provide that feedback and still maintain a work-life balance?
To help make things easier, consider using a guided writing management and practice tool like Writable (an HMH partner) that connects instruction to feedback and revision. Multi-directional, targeted feedback focused on driving substantive revision inspires writers toward revision and also helps drive targeted instruction. This tool can help districts and schools organize, monitor, and assess as students progress toward state and district goals for literacy.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of HMH.
Easily organize and connect your writing instruction to a cycle of authentic feedback and revision. Writable’s user-friendly, goal-referenced rubrics and comment stems offer tangible, transparent, actionable, and consistent feedback for any combination of reviewers you choose. You can also sign up for aof Writable, which has partnered with HMH to integrate its writing practice and formative assessment platform into HMH’s core English language arts programs.
Education Research Director, Core Literacy & Early Learning