How Does Formative, Written Feedback Help Students Improve Their Geographical Writing, pp. 9 of 17

Qualitative Data

The other source of data we gathered from the FGD both reaffirmed some of these points as well as threw light upon what the students meant in the survey. First, the lack of detail in the feedback which limited its usefulness was a recurring theme. Responses ranged in their elaboration, although all alluded to the lack of detail, as quoted below:

“The feedback isn’t really specific” – Student F[v] (group 2)

“The feedback helped me to realise the mistakes in my essay, but as to how I should correct them, it was not very clear.” – Student MW (group 2)

“The feedback given in front, at the cover page, was not really very helpful as it was more of a general kind. But for those that are actually on the side of the essay, they were really detailed. For example, how some of my evidences were not clear enough, and how some statistics were lost. So the details will indicate the parts that are lacking, which were more helpful.” – Student WL (group 1)

It is intuitive that the more detailed the feedback, the more informative it would be. However, it is also the relevance and choice of content written by the teacher that affects the relevance and effectiveness of the feedback. Figures 6 and 7 compare the students’ response in the FGD and the written feedback that he/she received from the tutor, and it is apparent that both quantity and quality of the feedback given matters.

It can be seen that students definitely appreciated more specific and explicit suggestions for improvement, as demonstrated in Figure 7. By contrast, the written feedback showcased in Figure 7 was decidedly less explicit, and phrased more in the form of guiding questions. It can be seen that not all the questions were effective in helping the student to improve; the suggestions for improvement tended to be implicit and inferred. For example, the question “how would you keep your essay relevant to the question throughout?” implied that there were parts where the draft essay veered towards the irrelevant, but did not say where exactly the problem areas were. Also, the question ‘what makes a good introduction? What purpose does it serve?’ directed the student to think about the key characteristics of a good introduction and how it could be optimally used, but, as student MW observed, ‘as to how…, it was not very clear’.

Related Teaching Materials

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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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