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A Manifesto on Written Feedback

From the University of Arizona Writing Faculty to Our Students

  1. We would like you to understand that our comments are part of the teaching and learning process. We write comments not just to evaluate your essay but to help you see how the lessons from class emerge in your writing.
  2. One way to better understand the purpose of our comments is to actively participate in class and carefully read the rubric and assignment sheet. These are the ways we communicate with you ahead of time about what we are looking for in your writing.
  3. We would like you to know that we intend our comments to be constructive. We value your ideas and want to learn from you. We hope that you will use our comments to learn from us as well.
  4. We would like you to approach each essay not as an independent unit, but as a brief moment in your overall development as a writer. Our comments are meant to be useful to you in this assignment and in your future writing.
  5. We would like you to accept responsibility for using our comments in the revision process.
  6. We also expect you to share your strengths as a writer in commenting on your peers’ papers.
  7. Our comments are intended to be both descriptive and evaluative. Writing a grade is probably the least interesting thing we do as writing instructors. Take the time to re-read the entire essay alongside our comments until you can see the grade in context.
  8. We invite you to use our comments as an opportunity to talk further about your writing.

From the Columbia State University Writing Center Tutors

  1. We would like your comments to be written to us—students. We would like you to engage us through dialogue, not through commands. We ask that you not use your comments to reinforce the hierarchy between professors and students. Instead, use comments to create a relationship with us, reader to writer, and show us that you have read our papers and care about our development as writers and thinkers.
  2. We would like your comments to be specific and not generic. Point out what we’ve accomplished and provide specific strategies for how we can improve as writers.
  3. We ask that you assume that we want to become stronger writers and to learn from your comments.
  4. We would like your comments to bolster our agency as writers and to deepen our thinking.
  5. We feel censored when you cross out our sentences or shut down our arguments by writing “wrong” in the margin.
  6. We would like your comments to help us notice themes and patterns in our writing, rather than point out random or arbitrary mistakes.
  7. We would like you to distribute rubrics with the assignment rather than at the end of the writing process. You help us improve as writers when you discuss the rubric in class, for then the rubric informs the writing process, and we can learn from it. If your rubric is formulaic and covers too many elements, it does not help us as much, for it seems to exist for you to justify your grades.