When graded papers get a quick glance before being shoved into a backpack or deposited into the trash can on the way out of class, it’s often hard for teachers to summon the motivation to write lots of comments on papers. That’s why I was pleased to find evidence in two studies that students do value written comments on their work.
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
improving student writing skills
In one of my favorite A Midsummer Night’s Dream passages by William Shakespeare, Theseus comments on the creation of poetry. Informing us that the “poet’s eye” in a “fine frenzy rolling” glances from “heaven to earth, from earth to heaven,” we learn about the process of making sense of the world and composing something about it.
Before embarking on a writing assignment, I challenge my students to imagine a skeptical reader who expects them to answer five important questions. Answering these questions demands critical writing and thinking, and helps the students develop thoughtful content, efficient structure, and clear sentences.
How often does this happen to you? You pore over students’ writing assignments, adding what you feel are insightful and encouraging comments throughout each paper. Comments you hope your students will take to heart and use to improve their writing next time around. Then you return the papers and the students quickly look at the grade and stuff the paper into their backpacks … perhaps mumbling something under their breath as they do.