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Tom Hopper's Design Narrative: Improving Feedback

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Tom Hopper
25 March 2013


I'm an ESL teacher and I'm trying to find the best ways to give feedback to my students on their writing.


It's classroom based with adult students, writing in a second language.


I was trying to find out which methods of feedback they found most useful. The measure of success is the feedback they give to the teaching institution about me at the end of the course.


I had 3 pieces of writing and for each one i did feedback in a different way.

First, written comments and corrections (skills and language) on the script.

Second, language errors corrected on the script and verbal advice about skills one-to-one.

Third, only consistent repetitive language errors summarised in written comments in a document, with skills summarised using smiley faces together with examples of excellent and awful skills.

After this, I did a survey to find out which of the above methods they favour.

Generally, students are weary of filling in forms at the end of a course but I had no such problems with this mid-course feedback.


Given the opportunity, they want it all, but forced to choose, all prefer all language errors to be corrected on their script. With respect to skills, the majority prefer the smiley faces with examples, and, if possible, brief verbal feedback.

I was surpised by the number of positive comments in the comments boxes. They clearly appreciated being given options and being asked. The benefit of the improved relationship is definitely worth the small amount of time taken to do this.

I plan to give feedback with smaller variations on the established preferences to further refine the feedback. 

Some like one-to-one contact in class, and others do not, so it is important to identify these people so that my time in class is used most effectively and the students get the contact they want. 


I believe that the act of asking the students is valuable in itself, especially mid-course, and i believe this is because they understand their opinion can influence what happens in class. This might also explain why feedback requested by the institution after the course has ended is not popular.

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Nicky Mee
4:00pm 25 March 2013

I teach ESOL as well as you know and on my latest AIM course covering ESOL and Citizenship it is mandatory that they fill in end of course feedback for the awarding body. I contribute on written work in writing on scripts and, if there is a lot to correct I ask student to come in a  bit before the class starts and do a 1-2-1 and then amend their ILP accordingly or build it into new learning that sudents need to undertake etc.

Amanda Everitt
4:21pm 25 March 2013

I am interested in what backgrounds the students came - could the results have been different with different ages and cultures?

Also, how was the survey undertaken? If it was carried out face to face or via paper this may have influenced the results. 

But great process undertaken.

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