Teacher’s comments on a student’s work are probably one of the most influential steps in a revision process, yet we as teachers do not seem to know how to handle these remarks. Over a study, looking at the comments that a teacher leaves (versus a computer program) and taking into consideration the students’ response to these (mostly confusing) remarks, we see an area that probably needs to be paid a greater amount of attention.
There are two main problems in the feedback from teachers. The first is that some comments actually distract from the students’ aim in their essays. When we are constantly correcting grammar and punctuation and not giving enough credit to the actual content, students will begin to think that those small grammatical issues are the most important thing. Those marks can also directly contradict other statements made, such as telling a student to tighten up their prose, but telling them to elaborate on the same exact part, leaving students to decided which to fix. The other problem is not leaving text-specific comments, i.e. leaving remarks that can (and are) made on an number of different papers. Instead, response should be to the student’s text, so that they have the best possible idea of what you mean, instead of having to guess at vague terminology.
We put enough time into looking at student drafts already, but now it is time to add some substance that the students actually understand. Pay attention to what they are saying (or trying to say and not quite making it work) and leave the comma splices until just before the final is due. Thanks!