In the articles assigned for this week, John Bean’s “Writing Comments on Student Papers” and Nancy Sommers’ “Responding to Student Writing” both delve into the significance of providing constructive feedback on students’ papers.
Receiving feedback as a writer is an essential and invaluable part of the creative process. It serves as a mirror reflecting not only the strengths but also the weaknesses in our work. Constructive criticism helps writers refine their craft by identifying areas that require improvement, be it in style, clarity, or storytelling. Furthermore, feedback offers a fresh perspective, often revealing nuances and insights we might have missed due to our proximity to our own work. It also helps writers understand their audience better and adapt their writing to connect more effectively. Additionally, feedback builds resilience, fostering the ability to handle rejection and criticism, which is inevitable in the world of writing. Ultimately, feedback is a compass guiding writers toward growth, refinement, and the creation of impactful and resonant pieces of literature.
During my elementary school years in my English classes, I vividly remember embarking on the writing journey, which consisted of prewriting, drafting, revising, and editing. This process frequently appeared as the most daunting aspect of writing, yet it has consistently served as an indispensable cornerstone for my writing abilities throughout my life.
At times when I didn’t receive constructive, guiding feedback, I felt like I was tailoring my work to meet the teacher’s expectations for a grade rather than advancing as a writer. This crucial feedback, or lack thereof, can make or break a writer. When students receive thoughtful and instructive feedback, it acts as a springboard for growth and fosters a deeper understanding of the craft. However, without such guidance, students may stagnate, only ticking boxes for grades without internalizing the art of effective writing. The impact of a teacher’s feedback can fuel a writer’s evolution or hinder it, making it a pivotal factor in one’s writing journey.
In the article by John Bean, he urges teachers to enhance their grading practices. To underscore the significance of this aspect of grading, Bean draws a comparison to butterflies. He suggests that the concluding comment on a draft is akin to a butterfly before undergoing metamorphosis – at this stage, it resembles a caterpillar. However, through effective feedback and revision, it can transform into a beautiful butterfly. I found this analogy to be a brilliant representation of the writing process.
Moreover, in Nancy Sommers’ article, she claims it is crucial to differentiate comments on drafts from those on final essays. On rough drafts, it should assess where the draft is now and offer encouragement of where it could go. In the draft stage, teachers can push students to strengthen and possibly reframe or reorganize their arguments. However, on final drafts, comments should assess the strengths and weakness of the paper, but focus on transferrable lessons for future assignments like, “In your next paper, you might want to try…” or “Before writing your next paper, ask yourself…”
Sommers makes a valid point when she mentions,
In commenting on our students’ writing, however, we have an additional pedagogical purpose. As teachers we know that most students find it difficult to imagine a reader’s response in advance, and to use such responses as a guide in composing. Thus, we comment on student writing to dramatize the presence of a reader, to help our students to become that questioning reader themselves, because, ultimately, we believe that becoming such a reader will help them to evaluate what they have written and develop control over their writing.
Sommers’ perspective highlights the transformative potential of thoughtful feedback in the writing process. By helping students become more aware of their audience and writing choices, educators can empower them to become more effective and self-reliant writers in the long run.
I found both articles to be valuable guidance not only for educators but also for individuals in professions involving the evaluation and feedback of student papers. These articles underscore a perspective that resonates deeply with me: the belief that teacher feedback should function as a guiding path for students and individuals alike, empowering them to reach their utmost potential in their writing journey.
The role of teacher feedback should extend far beyond the correction of errors. It should catalyze growth and improvement. Teacher comments should possess the transformative power to inspire students, instilling a sense of purpose and motivation to revise and refine their papers. When a teacher provides effective feedback, it can ignite a desire for mastery, encouraging students to take pride in their work and view the revision process as an opportunity for enhancement and self-discovery.