The time commitment necessary to give high quality feedback on drafts can make it seem impossible, especially when papers are long or classes are large. Yet, as Ambrose et al. suggest in How Learning Works, formative feedback is essential to learning.
Try collecting a rough draft, but just before they hand it in, ask students to identify a short passage they are struggling with and would like feedback on. It could be a paragraph or a page or more, depending on the length of the assignment. Confine your comments to that section, but try to make them broadly applicable. More often than not, it will be clear even from a small section what areas need improvement.
In addition to saving you time, charging students with applying your feedback to the rest of their project puts the burden on them to actually learn from your comments as opposed to just mindlessly accepting your corrections. Furthermore, if a student is seriously struggling, you have the opportunity to intervene. If many students have misunderstood your assignment or there are broader class-wide concerns, you can address them together during class time.
Use this method in conjunction with other forms of feedback, such as peer review or self-reflection, to create even more chances for students to have an audience and receive constructive feedback on their work.
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Katherine Miscavige is an Educational Developer at the University Teaching & Learning Center of The George Washington University.
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