CELFS Teaching and Learning Network

Assessing and Marking Writing: Feedback Strategies to Involve the Learners

assessing-marking-writing-teasig-ppt_002-1Guest Post by Clare Fielder

In ELT, especially in EAP settings, there have been moves recently to involve learners more actively in giving and receiving feedback on their work and to encourage learner autonomy. As well as alleviating the burden of work on the teacher, there are several other good reasons to at least try out some feedback strategies that involve the learners more, such as peer review, or learner-driven feedback. I recently talked about this topic in more detail in a TEASIG webinar, which you can watch here.

Peer Review/Feedback is fairly common nowadays in language classrooms, though teachers often still face the hurdle of making learners receptive to the process. Some recent literature highlights ways to increase receptivity and the efficacy of the feedback given/received. For example, showing how whole-group training positively affects learners’ ability to give feedback, by widening the span of their attention from language aspects to content and organisation. Recipients of the feedback can also be trained to better incorporate comments into their re-drafts, which can help improve their essay writing (Rahimi 2013). Some possible training methods include showing videos of peers engaging in feedback conversations, or consultations with the teacher. Similarly, Zhao (2014) suggests that teacher demonstrates how they give feedback, gets learners to mimic procedure in pairs, comments orally on the appropriateness of peer comments, and then corrects re-drafts. Zhao found that this procedure improved quality of peer comments, and that learners learnt to trust their peers’ judgments and accept the feedback given as valuable. Evaluating the efficacy of peer review, Bijami et al (2013) present a collection of published studies it effectiveness in ELT, listing benefits such as it promoting active participation, reducing teacher-dependence, and developing critical thinking skills. It seems it is not without reason, therefore, that peer review is such a popular practice!

The most in-depth involvement of learners in the feedback process is through learner-driven feedback, where teachers respond to individual queries. Bloxham and Campbell (2010) trialled ‘Interactive Coversheets’, where students pose questions about their work when submitting, and found teachers were able to provide more focused feedback more quickly. Campbell and Schumm-Fauster’s (2013) findings were also positive. They trialled ‘Learner-Centred Feedback’ where students were required to pose questions to determine what tutors focused on when giving feedback on essay drafts, for example as footnotes or in margins (examples were given to students). Surveys of students’ opinions showed they felt in control, perceived the feedback as personal and motivating, and had a strong sense of progress. Campbell and Schumm-Fauster also noted higher levels of engagement with feedback, and development in students’ critical thinking skills. My recent study on learner-driven feedback shows how responding to learners’ individual queries can be effectively combined with employing different technological formats for the feedback delivery, see Fielder 2016. Generally, studies in this area present positive responses from both learners and teachers, and plenty of reasons why involving students in learner-directed feedback is beneficial; especially at intermediate/advanced levels.

Although neither of these feedback approaches is without potential drawbacks, I’m convinced that there are ways to make them more relevant by targeting each individual group of learners, and the research would seem to suggest that making the effort to involve the learners more actively in the feedback process when it comes to writing is more than worth while!

Timing breakdown of the webinar

The webinar lasts 1 hour 6 mins, and you can watch it here. If you are short of time, please skip to the relevant section/focus (timings below).


Focus Comments by Hannah Gurr

from 6:30

Marking code not much new here

from 12:30

Marking code + correction table (see example below)

interesting idea

from 19:00 Peer review

only 17 mins in length – well worth a watch!

from 35:30

Learner-driven feedback

also v. good

from 50:00



Example correction table



reason & correction


the analyse was not done on time
part of speech
these sales targets are continuously increased
confused meaning
continuous / continual
Continuous describes something that continues without stopping.
Continual usually describes an action that is repeated again and again.
students are under high pressure
under considerable pressure
pressure = cause of worry, force of a gas or liquid
Apple is been sued by a subsidiary of China’s broadcasting regulator
Apple has been sued  in the past
Apple is being sued  currently
Oxford Grammar for EAP
On the contrary, …
compare / contrast
In contrast, …On the contrary has a different use. It should contradict something previously stated

this can form a bank of errors (a.k.a. personal checklist)




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