Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Friday, June 10, 2011

Feedback on student work

This is a short post as a reminder about feedback on student work. HT goes to Paula Manning, who reminded me at the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning conference lsat Thursday that what we write matters to student success.

1) White space is good.

Too much verbiage on the page overwhelms students.

2) Institute a "top 3 areas for growth" policy.

Try giving comments on the top 3 areas where they need improvement, instead of commenting on everything that can be fixed. By explicitly telling students you are not commenting on everything, you prevent them from thinking that the non-commented parts of the paper are strong.

3) Think about rubrics.

Instead of reserving your feedback to comments on the page, think about a rubric that covers the main points of the exam. You can check whether a student has hit the point by marking it on the rubric. It preserves white space on the paper, and gives students an idea about their overall grasp of the subject area.

4) Think globally.

If you read the paper without making comments once, and then making comments on the top three areas for growth. What you will find is that students generally makes the same mistakes over and over throughout a paper. If you read through the paper once, you may only need to mark three areas for growth, but each area for growth shows up multiple times in the paper. After making the comment once, star * the other places in the paper where the mistake comes up again.

5) Avoid red pens, big X's, and rhetorical questions.

Another way to say this is to remind you to reign in your own frustrations. Some students feel red ink "bleeds" on the paper. Big X's say "You did nothing right and you will fail." Rhetorical questions are not particularly helpful to students. Instead of asking questions like "Why?" try to comments explicitly about the weakness and how to fix it. When you find yourself ready to write a rhetorical question, rephrase the question to reflect advice and suggestions. If you usually write "Why?" try writing "This is conclusory. Please show every step of your thinking. If you leave out which relevant facts you are considering, the reader cannot follow your analysis."


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