Why is Essay Feedback So Invaluable to Students
It’s funny how nothing really changes however far we get in life . . .
I am now very well into my late twenties looking to help students like you for the best part of the last seven years studying internationally in institutions around the world, but even after all this time I can still remember the first time I was properly asked to write an essay.
Now, of course, when you are in primary (or what many of you may call elementary) school you will have partaken in all manner of writing tasks but when I was a boy I cannot remember ever being told that any of these tasks were essays. As a result, the first time that I can specifically remember being asked to write an essay was the first year of high school in English at the age of about twelve. The teacher said to us that we were to have homework (this was also a relatively new thing as I was at primary school at a time when homework was a rare thing) and that were to have week to write an essay on four sides of A4 paper on what we had done during our summer holidays by hand (yes, we were not always able to use computers) and as to whether and why we enjoyed it.
Interestingly, however, we were also told to look to get ‘essay feedback’ from home.
The teacher said that we should write our work carefully and, if we did not feel confident about what we were saying first time around, to draft it first and/or write it in stages. Then, when we were satisfied we had finished, we were to seek out a parent, grandparent, older brother or sister, aunt, uncle or whomever else we had available at home to help us to read our work and then to make a comment with regards to what was good about AND how they though it could be improved and then write what they thought on the work and bring it in to class to be marked by the teacher.
Now you may be pondering as to the reason why I said at the start of this article that nothing changes, well the reason is this.
What my English teacher was seeking to do, as he explained sometime later after having marked the work, was to show us that we could get valuable essay feedback from all sorts of different sources as the comments that we got from home were largely similar to those made by our teacher. In effect, he was trying to show us that all opinions counted and that you did not have to be teacher by trade to be able to offer support and advice in practice on as to how to effectively tackle an issue in a piece of writing with good essay feedback. He said that if you can read and you are aware of events around you then you can offer an opinion on any subject put before you because your understanding of the written word and the way an should be structured has developed as a result so that anyone can provide useful essay feedback.
Therefore, even where you progress to the latter stages of high school and on to college and university, I would advise you to still look to your family and friends for views on your work because, regardless of the subject matter of your essay, they can still offer you views on the quality of the work that you produce and really useful essay feedback as a result.
Still not convinced?
If you want to make this a worthwhile exercise, and the person whose opinion you are seeking – aside from your teacher, of course, who will have their own criteria for assessing your work – is willing to do so, then you may ask them to look to check your work according to the following points for really useful essay feedback –
(a) First, ask them to consider whether your work’s spelling and grammar is appropriate (even after you have checked this on your computer there may still be mistakes that can be picked up so BE AWARE!!).
(b) Then ask them to consider whether your work answers the question (you should have checked this too but you may have what I call ‘essay eyes’ – you believe your work is so good that you cannot effectively distance yourself from it to critique it)
(c) At the same time you also want them to consider your structure – Are the ideas you have grouped together effectively in your essay? Are different ideas linked together? Is there an effective flow between paragraphs in your essay?
(d) Is there a clear introduction and a conclusion to your work?
These points that you are asking the person who is reading your work to consider may appear quite basic to you when they are taken at face value, but they can really help you to avoid some of the most basic errors of essay writing. In effect, by taking this approach you will then only be left with the subject related content to worry about and this is where, if you are lucky, you may be able to get really useful essay feedback from your teacher.
Now, of course, you cannot expect your teacher to give you detailed essay feedback where they are then going to mark your work later. However, there are an ever-increasing number of teachers who are now willing to look at your work before it is marked to provide you with essay feedback for you to act upon for the simple reason that it also effects as to how they will be ‘marked’ – your teacher will achieve more (very often higher pay!) if their classes do well as that is a mark of their ability. Therefore, I would advise you to be grateful for any assistance that your teacher is willing to give you by way of essay feedback – even if they will not read your essay, they may comment on a plan of your work or even just have a discussion with you about your ideas.