This article is a translation of a text published in Eductive’s French edition.

Revisiting my grading practice came from a great desire: to optimize my correction for the students, but also for myself. My fervour and enthusiasm as a CEGEP literature teacher were beginning to crumble under the weight of piles of corrections, year after year.

Written feedback, audio feedback, video feedback, the juxtaposition of methods: I read, I consulted, I tried, each time inhabited by the renewed hope of finding the magic solution to the burden that correction can become, and to the lack of tangible progress made by students who received copies riddled with comments, each as technovative as the next.

One day, a friend working in francization with an adult clientele told me about her method: correcting students as they write, verbally and in the spur of the moment. For her, it was the most effective way of getting her students to learn French.

Then, life gave me a newborn baby to cherish. Chance events were looming: I no longer wanted to spend my weekends and evenings correcting. From here on, I would correct assignments in front of my students, offering them simultaneous feedback.

Simultaneous correction and feedback

I’m starting my 4th year of the practice I call “simultaneous correction and feedback,” and I have to say it’s paying off. All evaluations, with the exception of the finals, are now corrected in front of the students in individual meetings. The groups I see are unanimous every session: they like it, and it helps them. And I no longer mark on weekends or evenings.

Correction meetings take place by appointment, ideally within 0 to 7 days after the evaluation, which means that feedback can be given very quickly. A student who has just handed in their copy at the end of the evaluation session can meet with me one-on-one to receive feedback on their copy, which I read for the 1st time in front of them and correct verbally.

Types of assignments

As a literature teacher, I have to correct assignments of a similar nature: outlines, paragraphs and complete essays. However, the concept of simultaneous feedback is certainly transferable to any other form of evaluation.

The nature of evaluations in literature also means that I choose not to correct the whole assignment in the presence of the student; I split my correction into 2 parts:

  • First, in front of the student, I correct the content (ideas, evidence, structure, etc.) and offer feedback.
  • Then, I correct French language quality, alone with my reference materials.

Type of feedback

It goes without saying that during correction meetings, the vast majority of comments on assignments are made orally. Students are encouraged to take notes to retain information they feel is important, or to record the meeting.

On the other hand, when I make a comment whose understanding and retention I consider paramount, I find it particularly interesting to invite the student to rephrase my feedback in writing: “How could I write this on your copy so that you understand my comment?”, “How would you write it down?”, “Where should I write it on your copy?”

As I read through the assignment, I complete my evaluation grid, verbalizing my thoughts on the student’s work. This way, students know what they did well and what they need to improve—a kind of explicit instruction of copy editing.

When I first tried the simultaneous correction and feedback method, I didn’t give any number grades. The students knew whether or not they passed each of my criteria and why, but I withheld the grade, which I established once I was alone. Today, a few changes to the grading rubric in my evaluation grid have led me to be comfortable giving them a numerical result. This way, students leave my office with a partial mark, out of 70, which concerns only what was discussed at our meeting, i.e. the content of their assignment. The remaining 30 points are reserved for language quality, which I mark on my own.

Time allocated to correction and feedback

The time allowed for each meeting depends on the nature of the evaluation, the number of students to be evaluated, the time available to me and my speed of execution. Depending on the context, I hold individual meetings ranging from 5 to 15 or even 20 minutes.

To make simultaneous feedback possible, in my case, it’s imperative that I hold meetings during my class time. If I have an evaluation in week 4, the week 5 class time will be used (in whole or in part) for correction and feedback.

For each evaluation, I also schedule correction time outside class time so that I can meet with all students. Nonetheless, this time is still less than for more traditional marking (done outside class time and alone). It’s more a question of reorganizing my schedule than “saving” correction time. The act of evaluating essentially takes the same amount of time, but this time is managed differently since it includes feedback in the presence of the student, part of which takes place during class time.

The relevance of simultaneous correction and feedback

Students’ self-efficacy

It’s fairly unanimous: students greatly appreciate the simultaneous correction and feedback. Their self-efficacy is increased. Students feel they can improve. This increases their motivation and engagement. It also allows us to establish a pedagogical relationship.

Moreover, these meetings allow me to give a lot of feedback in a short space of time, and even to rephrase a comment when a student doesn’t quite grasp it. It’s also an opportunity to suggest that the student write down the comment so that they do understand it.

Finally, thanks to this way of marking, the student receives feedback fairly quickly. The student remembers what they wrote and why they wrote it, which is not always the case otherwise. This way of giving feedback on students’ copies in a calm, relaxed atmosphere makes sense for them.

Here are a few answers from students who were asked the following question:

“Does the correction of your assignment (the meetings at my office) help you better understand what is expected of you? How do you perceive these meetings? Why?” [Both the question and answers were originally given in French, and translated by Eductive]

  • “Yes, it gives me a really good understanding of what I’m doing wrong, because it’s focused on me and I find it’s done in a calm, fun atmosphere.”
  • “The meetings help me understand better because normally I’m not a person who asks for help, even if I need it, so going to the meetings pushes me to ask for help.”
  • “I find the meetings a bonus to improvement, since I like the fact that the teacher takes the time to explain our difficulties in detail and in greater depth. I see this as a good tool for our success, because it helps us to better understand our mistakes and improve them calmly, without panicking.”
  • “Yes, they give me a better understanding of what’s expected of me. Knowing the mistakes I’ve made and having a solution by showing me where I went wrong and telling me what I could have done helps me a lot.”
  • “Yes, it’s really interesting to put your finger on the exact problems. And finding the gaps to work on. It’s motivating!”
  • “Yes, it helps to understand what’s not working, unlike a comment on a copy, which is less telling.”
  • “It’s nice, it’s personalized and private. There’s no confusion, everything’s clear.”
  • “Yes, usually the teacher has already done the correction and I don’t necessarily look at it. I know I’ve made mistakes, but I don’t know where so I can’t really improve whereas here it’s the other way around. I see my mistakes and I can make changes for next time.”

Teacher readjustment

Face-to-face meetings also allow the student to answer any questions that may arise during correction (who doesn’t have questions while marking an assignment?). On the one hand, the student sees what is confusing and has the chance to clarify it (whether or not this leads the teacher to revise the mark). On the other hand, it allows the teacher to redirect their feedback, to adjust based on the student’s explanations. Once back in the classroom, the teacher can, in turn, use the information gleaned to readjust their explanations and instructions.

It’s not unusual for less successful evaluations to take longer to mark in traditional correction approaches. With simultaneous feedback, it’s simpler to ask the student to confirm or deny the presence of an element, to explain or rephrase, and so on. When an assignment looks sloppy, the student sitting in front of us will often admit to it, which makes the task easier, needless to say!

Correction meetings can also be an opportunity for the teacher to take stock of a situation or offer the student an enlightened look at their success, since it’s a privileged moment when the student is right in front of them, present and available! Isn’t that wonderful?

Some peer-to-peer tips for optimal correction and feedback

Think you’d like to try it? Make sure you have:

  • the confidence to evaluate students in front of them and take responsibility for correcting them
    • We don’t always give 100%, if you know what I mean…
  • sustained concentration and energy over a fairly long period of time
    • It’s like a marathon, but in a sprint.
  • communication skills to provide both positive and constructive feedback
    • If you’re the kind of person who screams while marking, perhaps you should forget about the project.

You might find these documents useful:

  • an efficient, visual correction grid adapted to an in-person meeting, e.g. a descriptive grid to be checked or circled, a grid with a colour system, etc.
    • Personally, I couldn’t do without it!
  • a summary form for the student to complete, to help them retain the information given during the meeting.

Ideally, a little preparation is in order:

  • In class, inform your students about the meeting format, its purpose, your expectations and the conditions to be met (lateness, absence, attitude, etc.).
    • When someone is late, I start the correction alone and leave written feedback. If they don’t show up, their copy will be marked the old-fashioned way (with written comments, without them). If they do turn up and their scheduled appointment isn’t over, I continue with verbal correction in their presence until the end of their allotted time slot.
  • Meet your students for a formative meeting a 1st time (for example, by correcting a paragraph they have previously written).
    • Such a 1st meeting can defuse anxiety.
  • A week in advance, plan the meeting times and ask your students to sign up for the time slot of their choice. You can upload the schedule to Léa so that they can consult it (and avoid 500 MIO appointment reminders).

If you’d like to try simultaneous correction and feedback, I encourage you to do so. I sincerely believe that this way of marking can enable students to take full control of their success, and take the burden of marking off our shoulders. Who can beat having evenings and weekends to yourself and doing the best job in the world?

About the author

Marie-Pier Savoie

Marie-Pier Savoie holds a master’s degree in Literature from Université Laval and has been teaching literature at the college level since 2012. Involved in the Cégep de Matane’s community of practice, Marie-Pier is constantly reflecting on pedagogical practices, particularly explicit instruction and effective feedback. She wants her courses to be dynamic and motivating to engage student participation because a literature course “doesn’t have to be dull!”

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