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Responding to feedback on writing

In this article you will find out how to understand and evaluate your feedback for assignments to help you improve for your next.
© British Council

You will receive feedback for the assignments you do; in some cases this will be formative feedback which means the work you do will not necessarily count towards your final grade, but the feedback you receive will help you improve your next assignment. For summative assignments, ie which count towards your final grade, you will also receive feedback.

Your feedback can be delivered in different ways; it may be a grade, either number or letter, or a percentage mark, and usually some comments.

When you receive your feedback, the approach below is one way of looking at it.

  1. Read your feedback carefully, and make sure your understand it

  2. Look at the criteria alongside the feedback, and if you have a low grade in one section, try to decide what you need to do. For example, if you have a low grade for the organisation of an essay, look at the description which describes a ‘well-organised’ piece of work, and see if you can identify what’s missing from your own work

  3. Identify the areas where you’ve done well

  4. Look at any other assignments you have – is there a recurring pattern? For example, your organisation may be an area that was commented on previously

  5. If there’s something you don’t understand, or that isn’t clear, contact your tutor or lecturer

  6. Finally, and this is the most important step, write down three ways in which you could improve this assignment, and use this to feed forward into future assignments

What can you do about the area you are weak in?

If there’s something about your feedback that you do not understand, you could ask another student, or make contact your tutor/lecturer. It’s very important that you know clearly how you might improve each assignment that you write for the next time.

You should also check the support that’s offered for all students at your university. For example, the Study Advice team may run a session on ‘Organising your ideas’, or you may be able to book a writing tutorial through the in-sessional student support programme.

Now it’s your turn

Look at the formative feedback a teacher has given on an assignment, and then read the three points the student has decided to follow up on below. In the next Step, you’ll be asked to write some points for a different piece of sample feedback.

Example 1: Formative feedback

Title: To what extent can Japanese learners of English learn to adjust to the different attitudes to silence in Western countries?
Content (scope, relevance, focus, appropriacy, evaluative quality) Your ideas are relevant and you have taken an evaluative approach, which is very good. This is very well focused, and you have a good selection of appropriate material.
Organisation (paragraph content, cohesion, clarity, thesis, intro and conclusion) In general, you have given a fairly clear, well-organised explanation of the problems facing Japanese people when speaking English in multicultural environments, but you have not yet addressed the solutions and evaluated them. This is the most interesting part of your research, and is the focus of your project, so you should start working on this as soon as possible.

Your paragraph on “problems with silence” is too long and contains too many main ideas. I have suggested where you could separate it into smaller paragraphs with one main idea.

Your list of references does not contain Nakane (2005) or Nail (despite the fact that they are in your text.

Your list of references contains the names Fujio, Ichimura, Nakane and Tate Nail, which you have not referred to in your text.

Use of source material (support for ideas, synthesis, in-text referencing, bibliography) Make sure you are paraphrasing correctly. Some of your text is too similar to the original.

You have worked very hard to locate and incorporate appropriate material, which is good.

Student notes – My action

  1. Check full understanding of the question, e.g. in this essay I am expected to discuss not only the problems created by being silent, but also possible solutions.
  2. In the list of references, I must include full reference to all the sources that I cite in my essay.
  3. As teacher for advice about paraphrasing. Can she suggest a website which explains this clearly?

Now move on to the next Step, to read another piece of feedback and make notes of the three actions you would take to follow up. Don’t forget to mark this Step as complete before you move on.

© British Council
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