When your teacher corrects your compositions, they are giving you feedback, so that you can do some things differently in the future and improve your writing ability. This way, learning happens.
There are two conditions to make feedback work:
1 The feedback must be useful and usable.
2 You must use it.
The teacher’s feedback may come in three different ways, although most teachers combine two or even the three types of feedback described here:
A) Correcting: sometimes teachers correct what is wrong; some other times they simply underline errors, leaving it to the student to work out where the problem lies; on occasion they tell students the kind of error (tense, word order, spelling), but they don’t correct it.
B) Comments like ‘do some work on indirect questions’ or ‘improve on paragraphing and connectors’ or they give some explanation of vocabulary items or a grammar point the student seems not to know.
C) Grades: Some teachers don’t give a grade, some others do (6/10).
We are going to take it for granted that the teacher’s feedback is useful and usable. If it isn’t, you should talk to him/her and let them know that their feedback isn’t really helpful to you.
As for the second condition, the way a student uses feedback entirely depends on him/her. There are several things you can do in this area. Here are some suggestions. Choose the one(s) which suit you best, but make a point of working on it on a regular basis:
A) Memorising: Read the teacher’s corrections, make sure that you understand them and finally try to memorise them. Look at them from time to time.
B) Re-writing: Keep a copy of the work you hand in to your teacher. This is very easy if you write your composition in a word processor. Read the teacher’s corrections and check that you understand them. After a few days, go back to the copy you made of your original composition and try to spot the mistakes in the composition. Then you can compare ‘your’ corrections with those of the teacher.
C) Collecting points: Read the teacher’s corrections and make sure that you understand them. Then, in a notebook, make notes on the points the teacher corrected: depend on, not of; used to is only used in the past, for the present we use usually. You can group the corrections in categories (prepositions, tenses, articles, vocabulary). Look at the points from time to time.
This is a summary of chapter 4 of Feedback, Cambridge University Press, an excellent course for intermediate students to develop their writing skills.
Remember you can gain access to the previous entries of the Writing Workshop by clicking on the 'Writing workshop' tag on the righ-hand side of this blog. They include:
01 Presentation of our written work.
02 Having something to say: How to get ideas for our written work.
03 Assessment criteria: How our written work is marked in exams.
Next week: Paragraphing.