Feedback, by definition, is objective information on someone's performance in relation to a goal. What worked? What didn't? Why? How could it be better? The fastest way to improve your feedback to students (and impress teachers!) is to make sure it is full of this helpful, super specific information that references and responds directly to student writing and provides really clear next steps.
Use quotes and paraphrase from student work to provide illustrative examples when you can.
Ask specific probing questions to get the student thinking in the right direction. This is a particularly effective tool for helping students develop their analysis.
Make your strengths feedback just as specific as your growths feedback - this helps students see exactly what they've done well, repeat good habits in the future, and feel motivated to keep writing!
Assume that students are doing their best: If they didn't do something, it's likely because they didn't know how to do it well. Feedback that just restates assignment expectations isn't as helpful as feedback that digs into the HOW.
Some Graiders fall into the trap of making their comments really broad because they think that will be most broadly helpful for the future or allow the student to make bigger, higher-impact changes...but the opposite is often true! If the task is too big, students won't know where to start, and even if they aren't revising this particular piece of writing, specific examples will help them reflect on their work and understand exactly what they did well or exactly what could have been stronger, and how. They'll have an easier time understanding how to apply your comments to future writing.
LOVE IT: "Make sure to tie everything back to the thesis. While your points on the National Bank are good, the example of the Trail of Tears does not seem relevant to your thesis about the common man."
This feedback directly references the student work. The Graider indicates the specific area for student growth (tying everything back to the thesis) and where in the work the student was off track (Trail of Tears example).
NEEDS WORK: "You didn’t fully address the prompt in your thesis."
The student probably thought they did address the prompt, so this isn't really helpful. What exactly is missing in the thesis?
LOVE IT: "You did a good job explaining the reasons why the evidence you chose was relevant. In your second paragraph, you clearly described the pet banks and why they were more effective for the middle class. In addition to supporting your thesis, this shows strong understanding of the context for your argument."
This feedback says exactly what the student did well (supporting evidence), where they did it (in the paragraph discussing pet banks), and an added bonus - why it was effective (demonstrates content mastery)
NEEDS WORK: "Your tone is, at times, informal. Go further with your historical analysis. Also, you need more detail in your thesis to fully address the prompt."
All of this feedback is lacking detail and direction. Where is the tone informal? Where is the analysis lacking? What detail does the feedback need? The student needs more information so they can build plan of action for revisions or understand how to make their next essay stronger.
LOVE IT: "At many points, your analysis could be stronger. You have chosen strong pieces of evidence, but have sometimes not fully connected your evidence back to your thesis. Beyond summarizing the policy changes made during this time period, explain how they were successful or why they were not. In paragraph 2, for example, why is it important to know about Smith's disagreement?"
The student knows what is missing in their writing (detailed analysis) and exactly what they need to do to revise their work and make it stronger. There's a specific probing question that will get the student reflecting on their work.
NEEDS WORK: "Great conclusion!"
This is empty praise. The student does not know specifically what they did well or what about the conclusion was strong.
LOVE IT: "Organization will help readers follow your ideas. Next time, be sure to clearly distinguish an introductory paragraph, body paragraphs, and a separate conclusion paragraph, with a focus on clear and strong transition sentences. In this essay, you seem to have two main ideas: one about how school uniforms guard against bullying, and one about how they help students focus on school more than style. These could be two body paragraphs!"
This feedback shows the student exactly what they need to focus on in future assignments to improve their writing (organization) and goes beyond that to help the student see how this advice would apply to the current assignment.
NEEDS WORK: "Good start on the draft! Now just try to clean it up and shorten it by cutting out the parts that aren't relevant to your argument."
If the student knew how to “clean up the work” they would have done it already. While it seems directive, this feedback doesn’t give the student clear next steps.Which parts aren't directly relevant to the argument?