One of the most frustrating events that can cloud any teacher’s school day happens just as soon as returned papers are passed out. Those carefully graded papers with helpful marginal comments are completely ignored by students who only want to see their final grade. This is frustrating not just because of the hours of apparently wasted effort on our part, but because sometimes it seems as if we focus on the same errors all term long. Having to repeatedly remind students of the same mistakes is not an activity designed to make any teacher feel productive.
Fortunately, it’s not difficult to encourage students to use feedback to not just correct their mistakes, but to learn how to continue to use the knowledge and skills that they already have in the future. With this in mind, it’s important to avoid giving feedback without also designing some way for students to act upon what you have said. Asking them to correct their errors, write explanations of their thought processes, or tell a partner what they did well and how they could have improved are just some of the ways that you can involve students in learning from the feedback that you provide as well as from their own self-assessments. Here are a few more ideas to spark student reflection and guarantee that your insightful feedback is no longer ignored.
Make every assignment into a formative assessment by including an activity where students evaluate their work and the strategies that they used to master the material. Here are some suggestions to help students learn from their returned papers so that they can integrate the corrections and comments you offered into their learning and so you can move on to help your students in other ways.
Pass out colored pens and have students write corrections directly on their papers rather than just glance at the grade and file away the paper. Consider offering grade recovery for some of the points that student may have lost initially.
Give students a blank chart or graphic organizer with spaces to record their errors and their corrections.
Have students correct their papers while working in pairs with other students to gather insight and advice.
Put students in groups of three or four to talk over their common mistakes and how they can avoid those errors in the future. As a group, they could develop a list of strategies to use in the future.
Have students keep a list of their own mistakes so that they can refer to it as they work on other assignments.
Ask students to keep a record of how they have improved their work on every major assignment. This can be a powerful document as students see how they have improved all year long.
After you pass back graded assignments, have students write comments to each other on self-sticking notes attached to the paper. Use one color for corrections and another for positive comments.
Ask students to highlight the parts of their assignment that they are proud of and want to be sure to repeat on the next assignment.
Have students complete a quick exit ticket self-assessing what they thoroughly learned and what they still need to work on.
Ask students to respond to respond to various questions designed to elicit recognition of their successes and productive activities as well as what went wrong. Here are a few of questions that you could use: What did I do well on this assignment? What can I improve on future assignments? What work habits were productive? What work habits hindered my learning? How can I make adjustments to learn more efficiently? What can I do to repeat my successes on this assignment? What can I do in the future to avoid the mistakes that I made on this assignment? Where can I get help with material that is difficult for me to learn?