How Does Formative, Written Feedback Help Students Improve Their Geographical Writing, pp. 8 of 17

Yet, of particular interest is the strong indication that the students were bothered by the absence of a grade given for their first draft. This ran counter to the assertion by Butler (1988) that ‘ego-involving motivation’, in the form of grades, do not positively influence improvement, even though this finding need not be surprising to those familiar with the highly competitive nature of the local educational context. The reasons for such a response were probed further in the focused group discussion.

The second set of data from the online survey similarly yielded generally positive responses, as summarised in Figure 4 below.

While all 4 criteria rated above average was seen in the predominance of ratings ‘1’ and ‘2’, the criteria of ‘detail’ and ‘clarity’ had significant percentages of respondents who were more neutral or negative in their rating. The highlighting of these criteria as less than satisfactory is echoed and confirmed both in the open-ended questions as well as the focused group discussions findings.

Figure 5 summarises the input from respondents to two questions: “To help me improve my first draft, it would have helped if my teacher had..” and “If I could re-submit my final draft, I would…”.

Figures 5A and 5B were derived from a summary of the student responses to the two questions via a categorisation of recurrent ideas as signified by keywords and their apparent meanings. The number of responses in each category were then calculated as a percentage of the total number of all responses. As for unique responses with only a single occurrence or of unclear meaning, they were categorised as ‘miscellaneous’ for figure 5B.

As seen in 5A, two issues that most students highlighted were the lack of detail in the written feedback, and the absence of a grade.  The third most prevalent request was for the teacher to show examples and samples. These also formed the salient points which were then explored further in the FGD. Figure 5B shows that most students understood what essential qualities a good answer should have, such as geographical concepts, but a worrying 31% said that they did not know how to improve. This further suggested that the written feedback was not always useful as an intended scaffold.

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An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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