February 11th- Feedback Day One!

Hey all! Here is your summary of what we did in class for day one of feedback. Class was a lot of fun, but also so productive as well!

Here’s what all went down:

To be prepared for class we had to read “Options for Responding to Student Writing,” by Elbow, “The Concept of Control,” by Straub, as well as the This I Believe essays written by our group members.

After reading both articles over feedback, and then reading our group member’s essays, we all gave everyone in your group feedback using some of the techniques you learned from Elbow and Straub! Some of the feedback techniques that Elbow and Straub discuss are the following: giving student ownership of their work by knowing that as teachers our feedback does not always have to be accepted, always praising student text, or even focusing on one point where a change would improve the piece overall. The feedback we left for our group members was then posted in the Google Drive!

At the start of class Dr. Benko had us briefly go over the feedback that we gave the members of our group, and explain how you used one specific technique that we learned from Elbow and Straub for every member of our group. Our analysis of our feedback were then saved, and uploaded to our 350 BOX account!

After we finished our critique analysis we were separated into pairs based off of the person we shared a table with. We were then asked to discuss the following: What words or phrases come to mind when you think of typical feedback that we may have received from our teachers, and what words or phrased come to mind when we think of feedback from our Elbow and Straub readings. Emilie was nice enough to make word clouds for us!

Here are a few of the words that came to mind when we thought about typical feedback:


Here are the words that came to mind when we thought about Elbow and Straub feedback:


If you take a look at the word cloud that correlates with typical feedback some of the larger words you see (which means these words were used most often) were words such as: vague, unclear, frustrating, open ended, and okay. These words suggest that typical red pen feedback that teachers so often give isn’t always that helpful to the writing process. In class we discussed how feedback is so important to the writing process; however, we were all able to say that the typical feedback was the feedback that we most often received. many people talked about how they even went to the point of completely ignoring the feedback that they were given. This is alarming, and proves that if feedback is going to be as helpful as it needs to be something has got to change.

This is where Elbow and Straub come it. The large words that appear in their word clouds are words such as: student, ownership, supportive, respect, human, think, etc. From reading those words and looking at the word cloud you probably can tell that overall we felt that the feedback Elbow and Straub discuss is more likely to benefit student writing. During discussion many people talked about how giving students ownership of their work is not only going to help those who are willing to write improve, but maybe even inspire struggling writers or those who generally are not interested in writing. We continued to discuss how humanistic, realistic, and supportive feedback is so incredibly important because it gives students room to improve on their writing skills: rather than giving them an unrealistic or vague list of errors the student made in their writing and are expected to improve on in their next piece. Over all it appeared that the whole class felt that Elbow and Straub’s techniques is the way feedback needs to move if students are going to be able to benefit from the process.

Next we read the feedback over our This I Believe Essay that our group members gave to us, and picked the one that we felt was the most helpful. We had to explain why as a writer it was helpful to us, and then in what ways it connected to the readings we did for class. Emilie was nice enough to make another set of word clouds!

Here is the word cloud over the feedback and how it helped us as a writer:


Here is the world cloud over how the feedback connected to the readings:


It was really great to be able to look at the word clouds associated with the feedback that we gave to our classmates and see similar words to the Elbow and Straub word clouds. It would appear than not only did we as a class feel that the feedback out classmates left for us was not only beneficial, but that is also was appreciated, specific, tangible, and they were suggestions rather than demands. It would appear that we all felt that the feedback we were given was a great application of what Elbow and Straub discuss in their respective readings, and that the feedback also helped us improve our writing!

 “The goal is to make thoughtful informed feedback for what not only works for us as teachers, but what also works for our kids.” –Dr. Benko

Dr. Benko told us about a group of middle school boys that she had when she was a secondary teach. She explained that these students were disengaged in the classroom, but they were really intelligent. It was so hard for Dr. Benko to get these students to write for her, and as such the best feedback for these students was something that was short that was a kind praise, and something that was short and a suggestion.

It was explained that knowing your students is incredibly important when it comes to feedback. If Dr. Benko had given these students a large amount of criticism, they may have felt more discouraged than they already were; however, if she had given them copious amounts of praise that also could be overwhelming. We as teachers need to make a large effort when it comes to understanding what feedback will work best for our students.

Take away:

Remember, feedback is incredibly important when it comes to the writing process. Feedback is an opportunity to help students grow, and as such it should be given out of kindness, throughout the process rather than just at the end, and with the understanding that we as readers do not have ownership over the writing. Giving students ownership of their writing is a great way to encourage them t write more often, and allows them to grow into their own unique writing style!

Think about it:

Since we are all in college we all have received feedback in one way or another. I’d like to ask all of you to think about a time where you received feedback that was not helpful to you as a writer. Think about the following questions: Why wasn’t it helpful, and what techniques could your teacher or professor have used from Elbow or Straub to make that feedback more beneficial?

For more information about feedback, check out this article! This article is called “Improving Student Writing: Using Feedback as a Teaching Tool,” by Shelley Stagg Peterson. Stagg Peterson writes on a lot of similar feedback techniques that Elbow and Straub discuss, and even goes more in-depth about peer feedback. Stagg Peterson’s article proves that not only are other professionals thinking about feedback in similar ways as Elbow and Straub, but also that their techniques are being applied in the real world, and that they are seeing results!

Looking ahead:

  • Twitter reflections are due by the beginning of class on Tuesday February the 16th
  • The readings for Tuesday and Thursday have been reversed!
  • For Tuesday please read “No Longer a Luxury: Digital Literacy Can’t Wait” by Hicks (Link is on Blackboard under the Readings section).

Have a good weekend!



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