I am very good at seeing the problems with a student paper and not so good with expressing what they have done right.
I know that some of my students, who work hard and still don’t do well, get very frustrated. I am not sure positive feedback will really fix that problem, but I think if I tell them what they have done well, it would be better.
Part of the problem is that I assume a 100 for whichever section of the paper I am grading (content, organization, etc) and then take off points from there. I only add points on if 1) it is novel and good or it made me smile (I cry easily.) and 2) if the paper was far more developed or detailed than I expected/wanted.
Perhaps I should go with a rubric that gives generalities instead. I did that with one paper and that seemed to be more positively received. Of course, that could be because I gave them the rubrics in an email and didn’t hand the papers back in class so that I didn’t see the frustrations.
I’m still thinking about this and any feedback that would help would be appreciated.
While reading the CHE fora, I found an answer to this problem of missing positive feedback. I am adding it here because while bookmarking on the fora works, I am far more likely to search for the information on TCE.
lasquires gave this advice:
I would say don’t give any positive feedback that isn’t sincere, and if an essay really does need quite a bit of work, the bulk of your comments will naturally address things that aren’t quite right. I usually write comments following a hierarchy of concerns:
1. Does the paper have a topic that is germane to the assignment?
2. Does the paper have a supportable argument?
3. Does the writer provide sufficient evidence in support of that argument?
4. Is the paper organized effectively as a whole?
5. Is the paper written and organized effectively at the paragraph level (appropriate transitions, etc.)?
6. Does the writer document sources correctly?
7. Does the writer use appropriate diction/style and is the paper well-edited?
8. Does the paper rise to a level of uniqueness or eloquence that sets it apart from the majority of papers produced by students at this level? (For me, an affirmative answer in this category is necessary for an A).
Almost all of these could be written about on most of my students’ papers. Perhaps I need to use a rubric that just lists these questions and says:
yes, mostly, halfway, somewhat, no
I kind of like that idea.