The process of writing is an important one for any learner to understand and experience. Even in the digital age, writing is still one of our most common and effective means of communication. Through appropriate feedback during peer assessment, your learners can help each other become better writers. To this end, Katherine James of Edutopia offers 5 solid writing feedback tips for students to use, in her article Giving Peer Feedback Helps Writers Grow.
Early in her post Katherine explains the twofold benefit of peer assessment and feedback that we don’t always consider when we set our learners free to engage in it. Ultimately it’s not just about shifting responsibility for learning; it’s also about helping them grow as both writers and collaborators:
“We often think only of the benefits of receiving feedback on work, namely that others’ suggestions can help writers improve a piece of writing. Authentically giving feedback, however, is also crucial to students’ development as writers.”
She goes on to stress the idea that meaningful peer feedback serves numerous constructive purposes in the learning process. It not only allows learners to see examples of what works and what doesn’t, but also reinforces their understanding of the language around writing, and lets them develop their “editor’s voice.”
A Little on Feedback and Peer Assessment
In regard to peer assessment, we find that students are usually quite frank and honest when assessing their own performance, and also that of their peers. What’s great about learners assessing each other is that it supports both them and teachers alike—reducing workload for the teacher, and increasing both engagement and understanding between the learners.
All things considered, peer assessment mostly reinforces the importance of collaboration. You may find that students often have a better grasp of group dynamics and relationships than you do as a teacher. Thus, encouraging reflection and self assessment adds a powerful dimension to collaborative learning.
In addition, the importance of students providing each other with quality feedback can’t be overstated. As we discuss in our book Mindful Assessment, feedback must be:
- Timely: It’s got to be given frequently and in detail during learning.
- Appropriate and reflective: It must reflect a learner’s ability, maturity, and age, and must be understandable.
- Honest & supportive: It must be honest and supportive, and provide encouragement to continue.
- Focused on learning: It must be linked to the purpose of the task.
- Enabling: It must be actionable, providing learners with ample opportunities to apply it to their benefit.
As Katherine reminds us in her Edotopia article, practicing good feedback “benefits both the receiver and the giver.” Keep this in mind as you explore the writing feedback tips she has provided, which are summarized below.
5 Writing Feedback Tips for Peer Assessment
- Scaffolding with a checklist: The checklist should match the skills covered in a term or unit. Pairing students up to check each other’s work allows them to help others revise and correct work with the checklist.
- I like, I wish, I wonder: When reading each other’s work and giving feedback, learners discuss one thing they liked about the other person’s work, one thing they wished that person had done differently, and one thing they wondered about.
- Areas/categories of feedback: Have your learners make lists of things they can look for when giving feedback (description, organization of ideas, punctuation, sentence structure, etc.). Divide the lists into categories and discuss which ones are most important to focus on early in the writing process before drafts are handed in for review.
- Speaking constructively: In this one, learners devise “do” and “don’t” lists for workshopping during peer feedback (for instance, don’t use insults or vague criticisms; do be constructive and ask essential and exploratory questions that foster discussion).
- Specific vs. general: Remind students that their feedback questions and suggestions should be both specific as well as constructive.
Read more about Katherine James’s writing feedback tips for students in her full article on Edutopia.