Feedback on Student Writing: The Proverbial Chicken

Needless to say, which came first is impossible to answer, so we’ll arbitrarily claim it was the chicken. Otherwise, how did the egg get laid? Of course, this begs the question on the arrival of the chicken, but we’ll leave that to the dinosaur experts. Given this chicken sitting in my classroom, let’s get started.
In WRN, a feedback setting is available in the ‘Settings’ button that can be activated or left off. This feature allows teachers to create feedback with two elements: (a) a label, and (b) extensive text (up to 500 characters). This label becomes a ‘button’ that appears when teachers are evaluating a student’s response and can be ‘dragged and dropped’ in the student’s response.
For example, if a teacher is focusing on sequence of ideas and use of transition devices, the label could be ‘transition’ and the text could be as follows: “You are effectively using transition devices like the following: therefore, however, because, then, afterward, since, etc. These words help the reader see the flow of logic in your writing.” This message is 189 characters with spaces so it is possible for considerable detail to be provided as feedback. And speaking of this, a general finding from research on writing is that feedback can be very effective if it is specific in content and directive in use (and we hope positively worded). Otherwise, feedback like the following is mostly aimed at motivation: “Great writing, excellent use of transitions, and orderly flow of ideas, etc. This kind of feedback is fine, but neither specific nor directive.
A couple of caveats on this feature. Providing feedback entails the following process by clicking on: Add Feedback, Highlight Text, and Add Feedback to Text.
Once text in the response is highlighted, a window opens that allows teachers to (a) directly provide feedback or (b) drag a button from the feedback library into the text box. The result is highlighted text in the student response associated with that feedback/label. 

The moral of this blog: Feedback is an important part of teaching but it needs to be specific and directive or its effects are primarily motivational (which isn’t a terrible outcome). In this writing platform, the feedback library allows great detail to be provided without having to be repetitively applied. Given that we’ve chosen feedback to be the chicken, we’re positioned for the egg: revisions.
Chicken Photo by wendy domeni from FreeImages

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