Part 1 of the series on appreciative responses to student writing. Why I don’t call my responses ‘feedback’ and how they connect to revision-oriented supervision of student writing.
I practice a revision-oriented supervision of graded term papers, which means that I give feedback on late stage drafts that students can then choose to revise before handing in a finalized version. To make my feedback as effective as possible both in terms of its usefulness for students and in terms of the time it takes me to do, I have developed a specific structure together with a specific rhetoric that I want to elaborate on here. 1
‘Response’ vs. ‘Feedback’
In the academic context that I work in, the term ‘feedback’ has acquired a unidirectional evaluative meaning because it usually comes together with a grade that cannot be changed: Students submit work, lecturers grade it, then they give feedback which essentially serves to justify the grade, and that’s that.
To emphasise that I understand my feedback as personally dialogic and academically discursive, I use the term ‘response’ instead: When I respond to student writing (which, when I do, is in a late draft stage), I take it seriously as scholarly work with a communicative intent, just as I would take the soon-to-be-published work of a colleague seriously in a peer-review.
This distinction is meaningful especially because students get the opportunity to react to my response, discuss it with me, and then decide whether they want to incorporate it in a revision of their work.
While I have originally developed many of my strategies without knowledge of established writing didactics, much of what I do can be found as recommended practice in e.g. Gottschalk/Hjortshoj, The Elements of Teaching Writing (2003) or Bean, Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom (2001), which are extremely useful resources. ↩︎