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Teaching Writing Online

Resources to support "Teaching Writing Online" workshop for grades 9-12 educators.

10 Tips for Effective Feedback from Dr. Marcus Meade (UVA Writing and Rhetoric)

1. Focus on 2-3 patterns (2 if you’d like to save time)

Research on feedback suggests that students won’t take away more than 2-3 key points from your feedback. So, don’t overload them with stuff they won’t take in anyway. It’s perfectly fine if you only make 2-4 comments on a text.


2. Be specific

Saying “this is good” or “this sounds awkward” doesn’t help anyone understand why the text is making the reader feel that way. Explain in detail why something is working or not.

EX: This sentence sounds vague because the terms “something” and “good” aren’t clear to me. What is the “something”? What do you mean by “good”?


3. Use examples in their own writing and outside of it

If students can connect feedback to the decisions they made in writing, it helps them make different decisions in the future (or even better, choose from a wider range of options). Seeing specific examples in their text helps with that. Seeing specific examples from outside their text helps see what a different choice looks like.

EX: This paragraph brings up later start times, block scheduling, and fewer extracurriculars as reforms for high school education. Right now, it’s confusing for the reader because none of those topics is fully discussed. Remember this paragraph from [a sample reading]. See how it sticks to just this one idea. That can help the audience fully understand each one.


4. Explain what impact a change in their writing may have on the audience

Writers need to think rhetorically. In order to do that, they need to imagine what impacts their decisions are having on audiences. If you frame feedback that way, it can help them develop audience awareness.

EX: If you identify the person who gave this quote beforehand, the audience will know who is speaking, and you may avoid some confusion


5. Ask questions they can consider or that point them back to class content

Questions encourage students to slow down and develop the understanding that writing is a series of choices and a writer makes. Those choices should be made thoughtfully.

EX: What impact do you think this joke/example/anecdote has on the audience?

Are there any other people who are affected by this issue?

What is an introduction suppose to accomplish?

What are all the different ways you can think of to write this sentence and still get your meaning across?


6. Utilize reflection

Have them go back over the feedback you’ve given them and connect it to their next/current project. How will they address your feedback in the next writing project? What have they learned from the process of writing and receiving feedback?


7. Try turning feedback into a dialogue

Let them respond to your feedback. This opens up a connection between them and their audience. It helps them construct who their audience is and see the feedback in greater detail.


8. Frame yourself as an audience member

Helps them develop audience awareness and see writing not as a list of rules to follow but as a series of decisions meant to have an impact on an audience.


9. Use the language you’ve given them to talk about writing in feedback

Hugely important. This provides them with a language to talk about and understand writing. Eventually, they start to see writing as a series of decisions within their control.


10. Read generously

Writers have personal connections to their writing even if it’s “just for school.” You have the potential to lift up students with feedback that is encouraging, constructive, and energy-giving, which could help solidify valuable dispositions toward writing.