Feedback constructively without tearing down your students

When it comes to marking, it can be so tempting to throw the papers in the air and pretend you’ve gone on vacation to some tropical island where work is a thing of the past… however, that’s not possible and you’ve got to march on. Sometimes marking is a breeze and sometimes it can be tougher than that steak your hot tinder date promised would be something Gordon Ramsay would approve of despite the fact it had the same consistency of an old shoe.


Giving your students constructive feedback while marking is vital to giving them the best opportunity to learn from their mistakes and encourage them when they’re correct. Here are a few tips to help you out:


  1. Prepare your students.

To reduce the anxiety that comes with getting feedback as well as the apprehension around the process, explain your grading criteria. Consider showing students a sample of answers, or have them respond to a sample question in class.


  1. State clearly what you expect from your students.

This might be problem solving. Or it might be stating and substantiating a thesis or statement. There should be no doubt as to what you want. Often you will here students asking other students what they did because they weren’t sure as to what was required.


  1. Briefly describe what constitutes “A+” work and what is considered average or a fail.

Make your expectations clear.


  1. Model how you would approach a question or solve a problem.

Or better yet ask the students to do this.


  1. Identify likely problems in advance.

These might include: Poorly crafted thesis statements; stating facts rather than advancing an argument; using vague, imprecise terms; rambling; writing in the passive voice.


  1. Following the exam, identify problems that cropped up repeatedly.

Suggest strategies that students might adopt to deal with these problems.


A big thing to remember is not to be too harsh and be open to discussing your marking with students. Don’t confuse your students with vague feedback and make sure you aren’t too harsh. Encourage students to ask questions as much as possible when you return graded assignments. As an educator, your job is to guide students to success and they need to realise you aren’t there to tear them down intentionally but rather to help them learn from mistakes.




June 29, 2017

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