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English papers and feedback

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My oldest is taking an English class at the local CC and I am wondering if this is typical.  The only feedback she gets is something like this:  Word choice:  3/5, Mechanics:  4/5, Organization 4/5, and Grammar 4/5  or similar.  There is no other feedback.  When I grade at home, I am now questioning if I give too much feedback.  I will point out grammar errors, etc.   I think I hand held too much and DD18 went into this class unprepared.

So I guess my question is:  How much feedback is typical on English papers in college?

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When I was an English professor, I spent hours and hours grading student papers -- usually marginal comments in addition to a paragraph or two at the end. It was incredibly time consuming (at least 20 minutes per paper), and often, I suspect that I spent more time commenting than students spent writing. This was in addition to comments on multiple drafts and conferences. I also used a rubric to determine the final grade, but that was only because I was a young, female professor and some students felt like they could challenge my grades. The rubric provided a structure for the conversation. I completely understand why writing instructors would give only a grade (commenting takes FOREVER when you  have 60+ papers at a time, and students rarely read them), but returning papers without any real substantive feedback (either verbal or written) is kind of pointless. Numbers are useless in terms of actually helping students understand either their strengths or their weaknesses.

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9 minutes ago, Amoret said:

When I was an English professor, I spent hours and hours grading student papers -- usually marginal comments in addition to a paragraph or two at the end. It was incredibly time consuming (at least 20 minutes per paper), and often, I suspect that I spent more time commenting than students spent writing. This was in addition to comments on multiple drafts and conferences. I also used a rubric to determine the final grade, but that was only because I was a young, female professor and some students felt like they could challenge my grades. The rubric provided a structure for the conversation. I completely understand why writing instructors would give only a grade (commenting takes FOREVER when you  have 60+ papers at a time, and students rarely read them), but returning papers without any real substantive feedback (either verbal or written) is kind of pointless. Numbers are useless in terms of actually helping students understand either their strengths or their weaknesses.

Thanks for replying!   Overall she has a decent grade, but she did receive a 60% on one paper, with "good" or "average" in all the rubric categories.  To me, a 60% is not average, it's below average.  She is incredibly frustrated, but I don't know if this is normal or not.  I have always graded her papers and gave immediate feedback.  I am now wondering with my youngest if I shouldn't give any notes and see if she can figure out the errors on her own. 

It has been years since I was in college, but I am pretty sure we got out papers back with comments....but I could be remembering wrong. 

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8 hours ago, LuvToRead said:

When I grade at home, I am now questioning if I give too much feedback.

There is no such thing as too much feedback.  It's the only way a student will learn.

3 hours ago, LuvToRead said:

Overall she has a decent grade, but she did receive a 60% on one paper, with "good" or "average" in all the rubric categories.  To me, a 60% is not average, it's below average.

The important thing is that the instructor understands that you can't convert the rubric score to a percentage and issue a grade of the 90+=A variety.  If that were the case, *most* of the rubric would be giving feedback for failing work.  If this is what the instructor is doing, then it is a problem.

Unfortunately, if you bring it to the attention to higher ups, they may also not understand.  I went through a whole graduate program (in education, no less) where this was a problem.

Edited by EKS
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Our kids received constructive comments in their college composition classes. Does the college have a writing center or free tutors your daughter could access remotely? Does the instructor have online office hours when she could ask for specific feedback?

For your daughter still at home, you might look at Grading with a Purple Crayon. It has rubric examples that you tailor, so your student is working on and improving issues specific to her weaknesses. Maybe this approach could help her get used to a rubric format she might encounter later. (Also, it was an effective learning tool in our homeschooling. Working on tailored points really helped our students take ownership and master weaknesses.)

Edited by iamonlyone
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11 hours ago, EKS said:

There is no such thing as too much feedback.  It's the only way a student will learn.

The important thing is that the instructor understands that you can't convert the rubric score to a percentage and issue a grade of the 90+=A variety.  If that were the case, *most* of the rubric would be giving feedback for failing work.  If this is what the instructor is doing, then it is a problem.

Unfortunately, if you bring it to the attention to higher ups, they may also not understand.  I went through a whole graduate program (in education, no less) where this was a problem.

Thank you!  I was wondering if I was doing too much!  Showed she me the grading rubric and it is very confusing.

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6 hours ago, iamonlyone said:

Our kids received constructive comments in their college composition classes. Does the college have a writing center or free tutors your daughter could access remotely? Does the instructor have online office hours when she could ask for specific feedback?

For your daughter still at home, you might look at Grading with a Purple Crayon. It has rubric examples that you tailor, so your student is working on and improving issues specific to her weaknesses. Maybe this approach could help her get used to a rubric format she might encounter later. (Also, it was an effective learning tool in our homeschooling. Working on tailored points really helped our students take ownership and master weaknesses.)

This has gone to an online only class.  Her teacher said to email with any questions.  The writing center is an excellent idea.  It is probably too late, but I will check into it.

I will give an example:
Her lowest scores seems to be on her MLA format.  She has emailed her teacher 3 times for specific advice.  (She has even had three other people look at her paper to see where she went wrong with the MLA format.)  All three times her teacher responded with a generic "most students are using the word 'you' in their papers" which my daughter had not done, and was seeking guidance specific to the MLA format.  On the 3rd time, DD responded back and said she was hoping for an actual concrete example of where she went wrong.  Her instructor then responded with "I am your teacher, not an editor" and paragraphs of stuff that was not helpful.  So my DD is in tears and is incredibly frustrated.  Her final essay is due Wednesday and she has no clue where she is formatting incorrectly.  Her instructor did finally show her a screen shot of an essay where she listed a source with no author.  The source was an internet article with no author.  Had DD received this information earlier she could have fixed it or let her instructor know there was no author.  The students were given the opportunity to revise their essays, but without any actual feedback she didn't know what to revise. 

I will look into "Grading with a Purple Crayon".  I currently use "Essentials in Writing" where for example the 2 point box under Organization/Content says "Introduction, thesis statement, and/or conclusion in vague" to me is fairly specific. It may not tell you exactly what is vague, but it gives you a place to start.  But as a mom, I am more specific and would say your intro is weak or whatever.   Being told you got a 3/5 on MLA format isn't quite as helpful. Especially since she cannot see where she went wrong in the MLA format. 

If I am being petty, please let me know.  It's hard to see your upset and in tears.

 

 

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You are not being petty.  It infuriates me when instructors do what this one is doing.

I second the idea of trying the writing center at the college.

Moving forward, I recommend that you look at any future instructors' ratings on the Rate My Professors website.  What you're looking for are trends in the comments.  For example, if several people say that the instructor doesn't give feedback or doesn't answer questions, stay far away.  Similarly, if several people say that the instructor is great and tend to give similar reasons, that's a clue that the person might be good.  

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10 minutes ago, EKS said:

You are not being petty.  It infuriates me when instructors do what this one is doing.

I second the idea of trying the writing center at the college.

Moving forward, I recommend that you look at any future instructors' ratings on the Rate My Professors website.  What you're looking for are trends in the comments.  For example, if several people say that the instructor doesn't give feedback or doesn't answer questions, stay far away.  Similarly, if several people say that the instructor is great and tend to give similar reasons, that's a clue that the person might be good.  

Thank you!  That is good advice!  I found out from past student (from 15 years ago) that this is fairly typical.  DD has a different instructor next semester.  This is a small CC with not many options. 

I am just praying she at least passes her final essay and ends up with a "B" in the class. 

I just checked and the instrucgor has glowing reviews on Rate my Professor.  With lots of "she gives great feedback", "very helpful" etc.  Ugg, it makes me feel I have set my DD for failure.  Most of the reviews are 10+ years old, though.   I will say she has encouraged DD to think more critically about things.  Some of the assignments were very thought provoking.

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1 minute ago, LuvToRead said:

Thank you!  That is good advice!  I found out from past student (from 15 years ago) that this is fairly typical.  DD has a different instructor next semester.  This is a small CC with not many options. 

I am just praying she at least passes her final essay and ends up with a "B" in the class. 

I just checked and the instrucgor has glowing reviews on Rate my Professor.  With lots of "she gives great feedback", "very helpful" etc.  Ugg, it makes me feel I have set my DD for failure.  Most of the reviews are 10+ years old, though.   I will say she has encouraged DD to think more critically about things.  Some of the assignments were very thought provoking.

I suppose that the online thing may have thrown this instructor off her game.  If she is used to handwriting comments on physical paper, the idea of printing out a slew of essays, commenting, scanning them, and uploading them may be more than she can handle.  

Unfortunately, online issues aside, this sort of thing is one of the downsides of dual enrollment, and it is why I was on edge the entire time my son was dual enrolled at our CC.

If she were my daughter, I'd go over with her any further submissions to this instructor with a find toothed comb.  She should input the references herself rather than rely on something like EasyBib, which makes a ridiculous number of errors.  For something like this, I would be careful to avoid references that need special formatting--such as those with no author.  Also, she needs to remember that style goes beyond how to format references (for example, title page formatting, margin size, page numbering, Oxford comma use, etc.), and she should make sure that her paper conforms in all ways to the MLA format.  

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11 minutes ago, EKS said:

I suppose that the online thing may have thrown this instructor off her game.  If she is used to handwriting comments on physical paper, the idea of printing out a slew of essays, commenting, scanning them, and uploading them may be more than she can handle.  

Unfortunately, online issues aside, this sort of thing is one of the downsides of dual enrollment, and it is why I was on edge the entire time my son was dual enrolled at our CC.

If she were my daughter, I'd go over with her any further submissions to this instructor with a find toothed comb.  She should input the references herself rather than rely on something like EasyBib, which makes a ridiculous number of errors.  For something like this, I would be careful to avoid references that need special formatting--such as those with no author.  Also, she needs to remember that style goes beyond how to format references (for example, title page formatting, margin size, page numbering, Oxford comma use, etc.), and she should make sure that her paper conforms in all ways to the MLA format.  

I do believe everything going online has been an issue.  DD types everything into google docs and then sends her essays to her instructor via canvas.  I am wondering if there is a possibility things are getting reformatted in the upload?   I do know she inputs references herself.   I didn't even know things like EasyBib existed!  I did tell her to have several people look over her final essay, myself included.  She hasn't wanted me to look at her papers, but she has had help.  My aunt (who has helped dozens of students over the years with their papers with great success) has been helping her. 

Thank you so much for taking the time to help me out!  She was pretty stressed out yesterday after the last email conversation with her instructor.  She is feeling better about it today. 

 

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7 hours ago, LuvToRead said:

This has gone to an online only class.  Her teacher said to email with any questions.  The writing center is an excellent idea.  It is probably too late, but I will check into it.

I will give an example:
Her lowest scores seems to be on her MLA format.  She has emailed her teacher 3 times for specific advice.  (She has even had three other people look at her paper to see where she went wrong with the MLA format.)  All three times her teacher responded with a generic "most students are using the word 'you' in their papers" which my daughter had not done, and was seeking guidance specific to the MLA format.  On the 3rd time, DD responded back and said she was hoping for an actual concrete example of where she went wrong.  Her instructor then responded with "I am your teacher, not an editor" and paragraphs of stuff that was not helpful.  So my DD is in tears and is incredibly frustrated.  Her final essay is due Wednesday and she has no clue where she is formatting incorrectly.  Her instructor did finally show her a screen shot of an essay where she listed a source with no author.  The source was an internet article with no author.  Had DD received this information earlier she could have fixed it or let her instructor know there was no author.  The students were given the opportunity to revise their essays, but without any actual feedback she didn't know what to revise. 

I will look into "Grading with a Purple Crayon".  I currently use "Essentials in Writing" where for example the 2 point box under Organization/Content says "Introduction, thesis statement, and/or conclusion in vague" to me is fairly specific. It may not tell you exactly what is vague, but it gives you a place to start.  But as a mom, I am more specific and would say your intro is weak or whatever.   Being told you got a 3/5 on MLA format isn't quite as helpful. Especially since she cannot see where she went wrong in the MLA format. 

If I am being petty, please let me know.  It's hard to see your upset and in tears.

 

 

 

That is ridiculous. I would be upset too. Here's hoping with you that the final essay goes well and that your daughter has an instructor who gives helpful feedback for her next class.

I don't think you should second think your own teaching. Instruction aids learning, and writing can't be improved (or adapted to meet goals/rubrics) without specific feedback.

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4 hours ago, iamonlyone said:

 

That is ridiculous. I would be upset too. Here's hoping with you that the final essay goes well and that your daughter has an instructor who gives helpful feedback for her next class.

I don't think you should second think your own teaching. Instruction aids learning, and writing can't be improved (or adapted to meet goals/rubrics) without specific feedback.

Thank you so much!  I feel better after talking all this out.  I am not a great writer, it is one of my weakest areas.  I have always second guessed my decision to teach it at the high school level, but we are rural and don't have access to any co-ops.   All the advice in this thread has been helpful.  She does have a different instructor next semester.  He is considered harder, but she would rather have harder instructor if it means she learns more. 

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I took a Shakespeare class this semester at the community college where I work, and she assigned a number grade and then wrote a paragraph. I am rusty on that kind of writing, and I found her feedback to be very helpful. I had trouble with a long compare/contrast essay that she straightened out for me, and on the final she pointed out that the passages I quoted were too long and to either choose a few key lines or summarize. So not super-detailed, but I learned from each time she did that.

My youngest works at her college's writing center. They offer either an upload with tutor comments, live online, or live face-to-face (but not right now). She makes extensive comments and has had students request her again who said that she provided more feedback than there professors. She even was editing a few long graduate papers at one point. 

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9 minutes ago, G5052 said:

I took a Shakespeare class this semester at the community college where I work, and she assigned a number grade and then wrote a paragraph. I am rusty on that kind of writing, and I found her feedback to be very helpful. I had trouble with a long compare/contrast essay that she straightened out for me, and on the final she pointed out that the passages I quoted were too long and to either choose a few key lines or summarize. So not super-detailed, but I learned from each time she did that.

My youngest works at her college's writing center. They offer either an upload with tutor comments, live online, or live face-to-face (but not right now). She makes extensive comments and has had students request her again who said that she provided more feedback than there professors. She even was editing a few long graduate papers at one point. 

Thanks for your response!  It sounds like you got some very helpful feedback.  I get the impression DD18's experiences isn't the norm.  

I am definitely going to urge her to use the writing center going forward. I wish I would have asked this question sooner, we may have saved a bunch of frustration.  This is a small CC, so I would guess the tutors know what each teacher expects.   I didn't even realize they were a thing!  I graduated in the 90's (or the 1900's as my kids like to remind me) and I just can't remember what resources were available.

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21 hours ago, LuvToRead said:

I am definitely going to urge her to use the writing center going forward. I wish I would have asked this question sooner, we may have saved a bunch of frustration.  This is a small CC, so I would guess the tutors know what each teacher expects.   I didn't even realize they were a thing!  I graduated in the 90's (or the 1900's as my kids like to remind me) and I just can't remember what resources were available.

 

Yes, my daughter attends the largest 4-year in our state as a commuter student. They have quite a system of electronic reservations with all kinds of checks-and-balances. She had a student try to get her to help on a take-home exam, and she caught it and was able to call their tutor helpline immediately to get a ruling. The director of the writing center called and messaged the student and said they would not be providing that sort of help. She had eight weeks of training before starting. Very impressive!

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10 hours ago, LuvToRead said:

Thanks for your response!  It sounds like you got some very helpful feedback.  I get the impression DD18's experiences isn't the norm.  

I am definitely going to urge her to use the writing center going forward. I wish I would have asked this question sooner, we may have saved a bunch of frustration.  This is a small CC, so I would guess the tutors know what each teacher expects.   I didn't even realize they were a thing!  I graduated in the 90's (or the 1900's as my kids like to remind me) and I just can't remember what resources were available.

 

The Freshman Comp professors at our daughter's college give a little extra credit if freshmen take a paper to the writing center. I think this is brilliant because 1.) it ensures that students know about the writing center and 2.) it takes away any stigma or embarrassment students might feel about going to the writing center. Our daughter went just to get the extra credit (she is a strong writer), but she was at the math center every day after class some semesters, and there was no embarrassment for needing and getting help.

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11 hours ago, iamonlyone said:

 

The Freshman Comp professors at our daughter's college give a little extra credit if freshmen take a paper to the writing center. I think this is brilliant because 1.) it ensures that students know about the writing center and 2.) it takes away any stigma or embarrassment students might feel about going to the writing center. Our daughter went just to get the extra credit (she is a strong writer), but she was at the math center every day after class some semesters, and there was no embarrassment for needing and getting help.

I like that!

I do have an update:  She got an 85% on her final paper, which was the highest grade in the class.  Not as high and she was hoping, but better than the 60% she received on one.  She managed to score a 100% on every 50 point paper, but scored between a 60 - 80% on every 100 point paper.  This only added to the confusion.  How could she score perfectly on a smaller point value paper,  and then get get a 60 on a 100 point paper? 

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2 hours ago, iamonlyone said:

Kudos to your daughter for getting the high grade in the class! Does the prof grade on the curve?

Thank you!  She wound up with a 92 for a final grade.  She was able to revise 4 of her essays which bumped up her grade to the 92.  So I am not sure if she actually earned the revision points, or if a curve resulted in the revision points.  Oh, and her instructor actually sent her the rubric she used to grade.  It was the kind with the grid so you could actually see where your weaknesses are in the composition.  So the points earned in each section finally made sense.  I wish she would have released this rubric earlier.  The only thing the students got was a list of things to include (which her instructor said was the rubric).

Edited by LuvToRead
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How frustrating!! I'm glad it had a happy "A" ending, at least!

When I started back to school, I took two literature classes. I'm 100% positive that one of the professors only read my first essay and no others. The first essay, he gave me a video feedback - and the others were left unopened the entire semester (on the platform we used, you could SEE if the prof. had opened a file at any point... he did not). 'twas ridiculous.

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6 hours ago, easypeasy said:

How frustrating!! I'm glad it had a happy "A" ending, at least!

When I started back to school, I took two literature classes. I'm 100% positive that one of the professors only read my first essay and no others. The first essay, he gave me a video feedback - and the others were left unopened the entire semester (on the platform we used, you could SEE if the prof. had opened a file at any point... he did not). 'twas ridiculous.

How frustrating! 

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22 hours ago, LuvToRead said:

Thank you!  She wound up with a 92 for a final grade.  She was able to revise 4 of her essays which bumped up her grade to the 92.  So I am not sure if she actually earned the revision points, or if a curve resulted in the revision points.  Oh, and her instructor actually sent her the rubric she used to grade.  It was the kind with the grid so you could actually see where your weaknesses are in the composition.  So the points earned in each section finally made sense.  I wish she would have released this rubric earlier.  The only thing the students got was a list of things to include (which her instructor said was the rubric).

 

I'm sorry it was so frustrating and not a better learning experience. Hooray for her final grade! Well done!

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