One of our expectations in the CAS Writing Program is that faculty will provide students with “timely and substantive” feedback on their writing, both on drafts and on final versions of papers/projects. In general, all faculty will meet with students individually at least twice in the semester to discuss their writing in formal writing conferences, scheduled outside of class time.

Feedback Modes and Norms

If you prefer to give feedback orally, then you will need to schedule additional conferences with individual students to accommodate feedback on each major assignment in the course. You may choose to give additional feedback in the margins of papers (either actual paper or documents) and/or as recorded comments. Note that even if you prefer to have students submit their papers through Blackboard, you do not need to use Blackboard’s Grade Center feature to provide feedback. You are free to use whatever program/method/modality works for you and your students, and this page gives an overview of different programs and some tech tips. In general, though, feedback on drafts should amount to more than a simple 2-3 sentence end comment and should also not be primarily or exclusively focused on line-by-line grammar comments. If you are using a grading contract or other non-traditional assessment approach in your class, you are still responsible for providing students with summative feedback at the end of an assignment (even if you do not attach a formal grade).


Microaffirmations as Part of Instructor Feedback

Inspired by Shawna Shapiro’s January 2022 talk to Writing Program faculty, and more broadly by the ideas of social justice, linguistic justice, and critical language awareness, we offer the following list of microaffirmations that instructors might write as marginal notes on a student’s paper. While these do not replace substantive end comments, they can act as a counter to the type of unhelpful, even harmful, comments that sometimes make students feel they do not belong in our classes. These microaffirmation comments begin (or productively continue) a dialogue with students about their writing and invite students into the academic discourse as fellow writers.

  • This source sounds amazing–now I want to read it!
  • Yes!
  • You nailed this claim.
  • I can see that you really read this text in depth.
  • That’s a great question.
  • Your evidence is powerful.
  • I really admire the depth of thinking here!
  • You made me think about this in a new way.
  • Very sophisticated point!
  • I really appreciate your willingness to connect your personal and academic interests.
  • You have a truly original insight here—can you say more about it?
  • What a fascinating discovery!
  • What a great quote to have pulled out. Good and careful reading.
  • I see a lot of positive change from the draft version.
  • Great topic sentence–you are doing a great job applying They Say/I Say templates.
  • You read so closely–even noticed that footnote!Your analysis here really persuades me.
  • This project keeps getting better!
  • It looks like your peer review comments really helped you in revision!
  • Really persuasive analysis!
  • Your thinking is really original here.
  • I agree with what you yourself said in your reflection—you made significant progress in terms of being more specific.
  • This notion seems to make good sense.
  • Nice touch here.


Useful Ways of Framing Feedback

More generally, you may want to remind students that feedback from instructors is only one source of feedback on their writing. Think about how you ask students to reconcile the different types of feedback they receive and to think about how to respond to each. What should students do when their their own intuition or a peer review partner’s perspective differs from an instructor’s comments?

In order to help students register and respond to the feedback they are receiving, consider building in reflections on feedback at a key point in the drafting process, and/or asking students (in a writer’s memo attached to the final version) to discuss some of the most useful feedback they received, from you or from another source. Some instructors also ask students to write a feedback reflection after they receive their grade (or, if you are not using traditional grading, their final comments) on the revised version of their paper.

Infographic on "Sources of Writing Feedback" with a circle representing student authors and then four lines coming out of it representing classmates, instructors, writing consultant, and others

As you think more about feedback, you may also be interested in these resources on conferencing with students and on this very general guide to working with multilingual writers.