Feedback and Response Practices

A key element of our work is collaborating with faculty and teaching assistants on effective strategies for providing written and in-person feedback on student writing. We also work with faculty to implement peer feedback, where students review and discuss each other’s writing, into STEM courses. Both in faculty learning communities and in mentoring, we discuss separating feedback from editing, offering opportunities for revision that allow students to respond to feedback, balancing global and local comments, and establishing transparency about assignment expectations. We approach feedback as an invitation into a disciplinary conversation.

Starting Points:

  • One of the most-cited challenges to giving feedback that instructors and teaching assistants share is time management. Before giving feedback on student writing, reflect on the goals of the assignment and consider ways to tailor your feedback around those goals. Particularly on shorter assignments, you might make 2-3 global suggestions that students could focus on in the next draft or assignment, and tie those to a handful of in-text comments. This can help both in managing your own workload and in giving students a clear next step.
  • If you observe a pattern in the writing features that students are unsure of, consider making time during lecture to address the question with your class as a whole. You might use an anonymous sample if one of your students is willing to share, and then demonstrate the feature and an effective revision using that sample, or have students work on a revision in groups. This can save time that would have been spent repeating the same feedback, and allows students to ask questions and have a more explicit conversation about the writing feature.
  • Consider how you can balance different styles of feedback to give students more ways of engaging with the writing process. Positive feedback can help students see where they are already using effective strategies. Open-ended questions can help students envision multiple ways of approaching the writing process, and can prompt them to think critically about their choices. In-person feedback gives students a chance to ask questions, clarify, and collaboratively try out potential changes.
  • UIUC Writers Workshop Resources on Responding to Student Writing, Teaching Linguistically Diverse Writers, and Conducting Peer Review
  • WAC Clearinghouse Guide to Commenting on and Grading Student Writing
  • University of Michigan Sweetland Center for Writing Resources for Giving Feedback on Student Writing
  • Washington University Center for Teaching and Learning Guide to Commenting on Student Writing


Additional Resources:

Connors, R. J., & Lunsford, A. A. (1993). Teachers’ rhetorical comments on student papers. College Composition and Communication, 44(2), 200–223.

Dryer, D. B. (2018). At a mirror, darkly: The imagined undergraduate writers of ten novice composition instructors. College Composition and Communication, 63(3), 420–452.

Fredrick, T. A. (2013). Stop! Think! Grade!: Developing a philosophy of writing evaluation. Language Arts Journal of Michigan, 28(2).

Horner, B., Lu, M.-Z., Royster, J. J., & Trimbur, J. (2011). Language difference in writing: Toward a translingual approach. College English, 73(3), 303–321.

Sharp, J. E., Olds, B. M., Miller, R. L., & Dyrud, M. A. (1999). Four effective writing strategies for engineering classes. Journal of Engineering Education, 88(1), 53–57.

Simon, R. (2013). “Starting with what is”: Exploring response and responsibility to student writing through collaborative inquiry. English Education, 45(2), 115–146.

Treglia, M. (2008). Feedback on feedback: Exploring student responses to teachers’ written commentary. Journal of Basic Writing, 27(1), 105.