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When is the Proper Time and Location on the Paper to Provide Feedback

Stacey Gray

When is the proper time and location on student papers to provide feedback?


I believe that students in basic writing courses should grow as writers and feel good about writing. Students should move from being labeled as basic writers to college level writers. One way to ensure this growth and movement is through feedback or teacher response. Teacher response to student writing can inform students of their mistakes in writing, especially in grammar, syntax, and punctuation as well as encourage new ideas in the content of student papers. (Shaughnessy, Introduction to Errors and Expectations and Expectations and Elbow in “Responses to Bartholomae and Elbow”). There are several ways to give feedback and several ways to phrase it to meet the ‘wants’ and ‘needs’ of basic writing students. Considering this fact, some methods may prove to be more effective than others; therefore teachers should notice and use the methods that make their students feel confident about writing.

As a student who has taken a basic writing course and now has aspirations of becoming a teacher of rhetoric and literature, I wanted to explore methods of feedback that I could use to make students feel good about writing and possibly, inspire them to become future writers. What I have found through research is that giving feedback to students at the proper time and location can help students improve the quality of their writing.

What Students wanted in Feedback:

In a survey conducted in 2004 by Doug Enders, assistant professor of English at Indiana State, fifty of his first year and second year writing students were asked open end questions concerning feedback. In this survey, Enders found that forty-eight of his students wanted an instructor to provide written comments both before and after papers were due(“Writing Back”, 447–48). Enders also goes on to claim that:

  • Some students spent up to sixty minutes reading teachers comments.
  • Twenty students claimed that teacher responses were too vague.
  • Some students did not like single marks on their papers that did not provide an explanation.
  • Others students felt that all comments were helpful.
  • One complained about illegible writing.

Based on Enders research and findings, students still had personal individual needs that were not being satisfied. (Enders cited in “Writing Back”, 448)

Types of Feedback that involve time and location:

  • Deductive feedback- feedback that provides comments that tell students where they need to improve their writing and how to do it.
  • Inductive feedback- feedback that offers questions that will lead students to discoveries on how to improve their writing.

Examples of Deductive and Inductive feedback and where they might be found on papers:

  • Marginal Comments = Comments written in the margins of student papers. This can be seen as deductive feedback because comments written in the margins can show students exactly the location where improvement is needed.
  • End Comments = Comments only written at the end of students papers. This can be seen as inductive feedback because comments located at the end of students paper allows room for complete sentences and questions to further extend students ideas.
  • Personal Letters = A letter written directly to a student either on the back of his/her paper or on a separate sheet of paper. This can be seen as either inductive or deductive feedback because teachers can identify exactly where the students need improvement as well as ask open end questions to extend ideas.
  • Conferences = Teachers set up one-on-one conferences with students to talk about their writing (usually in there office). This can be seen as both inductive and deductive feedback because during the one-on-one conferences students have with teachers, teachers can give more effective feedback by looking at the student’s assignments more closely asking those questions that will lead to new ideas as well as inform

students about areas of improvement.

Effects of Inductive and Deductive Feedback: Both Positive and Negative:

Positive and Negative Effects:

  • When dealing with marginal comments, end comments, personal letters, and conferences, research studies have found that students felt:
  • Teachers spent less time on their papers when using marginal comments and end comments.
  • Marginal comments hindered elaboration. Research studies have shown that students respond more negatively to feedback written in the margins or at the end of the essay. (Edgington, “Encouraging collaboration with Students on Teacher Response”.)
  • Some students felt that teachers just don’t care due to lack of explanation.
  • Student found both marginal comments and end comments to be illegible and

sometimes confusing because the teachers lack to specify the area of text these comments referred to. (Mitchler, “Writing Back”, Edgington, “Encouraging Collaboration with Students on Teacher Response”, and Haswell, “The Complexities of Responding to Student Writing”).

  • Students favored feedback that allowed more elaborate comments (i.e. personal letters and conferences). In “Encouraging Collaboration with Students on Teacher Responses” Anthony Edgington claimed that collaboration with students allowed their voices to be heard. Edgington also claimed that students put more effort in their work during conferences by taking more notes and asking more questions. (Edgington, 292)
  • Some student preferred personal letters because it had longer comments and showed teacher effort while others argued that putting comments near the location where the teacher is referring is a lot easier than flipping from page to page. (Edgington “Encouraging Collaboration with Students on Teacher Response”)
  • Even though students felt that personal letters showed more effort, they still favored conferences over many other types of feedback.
  • In conclusion, students who understood feedback, became stronger responders when given the chance to speak in one-on-one conferences and felt more comfortable talking about feedback. (Edgington, “Encouraging Collaboration with Students on Teacher Response”)


Types of deductive and inductive feedback tell exactly the time and location for response and based on this, research has proven that time and location can play a major role. For example when speaking of marginal feedback, the location of this type of feedback is in the margins of student papers and given back to them when the paper is return. Research shows that this type of feedback not only perplexes students due to vagueness and illegible writing but also makes them feel that teachers do not care. Also, end comments can be very vague due to space and illegible writing. Even though most students preferred comments writing on their paper versus just receiving a letter grade, most wanted feedback that offered lots of explanation of where and how to go about improvement in grammar and punctuation as well as content. Personal letters and conferences have proved to be better ways of giving explanations versus marginal and end comments. Students like to have a voice in the feedback process which leads to better understand and acceptance of feedback.

 Works Cited

Edgington, Anthony. “Encouraging collaboration with Students on Teacher Response.” Teaching English in the Two-Year College, 31.3 (2004): 287–96.

Elbow, Peter. “Responses to Bartholomae and Elbow.” ‘’College Composition and Communication’‘46.1 (1995): 84–92.

Elbow, Peter. “Illiteracy at Oxford and Harvard: Reflections on the Inability to Write.” Reflective Stories: Becoming Teachers of College English and English Education. Urbana IL, 1998: 91–114.

Haswell, Richard. | “The Complexities of Responding to Student Writing; or, Looking for Shortcuts via the Road of Excess”

Helmbrecht, Brenda. “Giving Grades, Taking Tolls: Assessing the Impact of Evaluation on Developing Writers”. Teaching English in the Two Year College. 34.3 (2007): 306–19

Mitchler, Sharon. “Writing Back.” Teaching English in the Two Year College, 33.4 (2006): 446–54.

Shaughnessy, Mina. Errors and Expectations. New York: Oxford UP, 1977.

Straub, Richard. “Students’ Reactions to Teacher Comments: An Exploratory Study” Research in The Teaching of English 31.1 (1997): 91–119.

Other sources to consider on the subject of feedback:

Durham-Reese, Nancy. “Peer Evaluation as an Active Learning Technique” Journal of Instructional Psychology 32.4 (2005): 338–43.

Gay, Pamela. “Dialogizing Response in the Writing Classroom:Students Answer Back” Journal of Basic Writing 17.1 (1998): 3–17.

Gray-Rosendale, Laura and Raymona Leonard.“Demythologizing the ‘Basic Writer’: Identity, Power, and Other Challenges to the Discipline.” BWe: Basic Writing e-Journal 3.1(2001).

Grobman, Laurie. “Building Bridges to Academic Discourse: The Peer Group Leader in BasicWriting Peer Response Groups.” Journal of Basic Writing 18.2(1999): 47–68.

Hanson, Sandra Sellers, and Leonard Vogt. “A Variation on Peer Critiquing: Peer Editing as the Integration of Language Skills.” A Sourcebook for Basic Writing Teachers. Ed. Theresa Enos. New York: Random House, 1987. 575–78.

Horner, Bruce. Rethinking the ‘Sociality of Error: Teaching Editing as Negotiation.” Rhetoric Review 11.1 (1992): 172–99.

Hull, Glynda. “Research on Error and Correction.” Perspective on Research and Scholarship inComposition. Ed. Ben W. McClelland and Timothy R. Donovan. New York: Modern Language Association, 1985. 162–84.

Kim, Loel. “Online Technologies for Teaching Writing: Students React to Teacher Response In Voice and Written Modalities.” Research in the Teaching of English 38.3 (2004):304–37.

Kulik, James A. “Timing of Feedback and Verbal Learning.” Review of Educational Research 58.1 (1988): 79–97.

Lynch, Denise. “Easing the Process: A Strategy for Evaluating Compositions.” ‘’College Composition and Communication’‘33.3 (1982): 310–14.

Perry, Debbie. “Peer Editing with Technology: Using the Computer to Create Interactive Feedback.” English Journal 94.6 (2005): 23.

Webb, Noreen M. “Group collaboration in Assessment: Multiple Objectives, Process and Outcomes.” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 17.2 (1995): 239–61.

List of other terms for researching feedback:

Two Year College Students/Community College

Evaluation/Writing Evaluation


Writing Teachers/Writing Instructors/Writing Instruction

College English



Peer Evaluation

Writing Improvement

Educational Strategies/Teaching Methods

Student Attitudes/Student Reaction

Teacher Influence

Teacher Student Relationship

Online Courses

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Page last modified on April 21, 2008, at 03:41 PM