Feedback – crafting words on a page

When asked to explain how to ‘word‘ feedback by first time markers I have tried to make the implicit and tacit, explicit. I should add that this is not addressing more structural issues like feed back – feed forward but is turning to focus more on the word-smithary and phrasing. Not sure if I have done this any justice but my initial list of key points for crafting words in feedback are as follows:

•       Try to avoid saying what we would do (we’re not doing it!)

•       It’s OK to own claims, but the over use of ‘I’ makes the mark sheet more about us than about the work we are marking.

•       When marking raises questions, remember that there may not be a right of reply for the student by way of a purposeful and extended dialogue. Facilitative questions are very powerful in teaching and learning but intensive questioning within feedback could be disorienting.

•       Be direct – the message is always clearer! as markers we can be to fluffy!. (Writing feedback and then edit down by 30% usually cuts out the fluff)

•       Avoid “need to” and “you should have” these phrases infer something that that we as a markers would have done it differently. Some tentative words ‘might of’ or ‘could of’ may be better.

•       Qualify statements with observation – good, excellent – why? What made it good or excellent? Any feedback that makes a judgment may benefit from a qualifying concrete observation.

•       Wherever possible use the language of the grid. The rubric is an agreement between the assessor and the student. It is how learners are expecting to be judged and therefore the use consistent language reinforces the transparency of the process.

•       Critically, judgments should be made on what is seen, avoid making judgments on interpretations of what is seen. In turn this enables us to judge the work not the student. All of the above should help with this.

•       Finally, names – love it or loathe it – believe it to be fair and just or stuff and nonsense – marking at times needs to be anonymous.  Unless there is a reason why you know the name of the student and this is OK, names should not usually be included in the feedback  (not sure I agree with this, but these are often the rules of the game!)

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