Instructor feedback for college writing assignments in introductory classes

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© 1998 Human Sciences Press, Inc. We compared three instructor feedback protocols to determine whether minimal instructor feedback could improve undergraduate students' writing skills in large introductory classes. The three feedback conditions were specific feedback, nonspecific feedback, and grade only. Sixty community college students participated in the study. Sections of an Introduction to Human Services course were randomly assigned to the three feedback conditions. Students wrote 9 timed essays during the semester. Pretest data were collected from the first essay at the beginning of the semester. Posttest data were taken from the final essay. Data for each student's essays consisted of the number of words written, the number of spelling errors, and the number of syntax grammar errors. Between the pretest and the posttest, students wrote 7 timed essays during class periods. Students in the specific feedback condition received a tatty of spelling and grammar errors on grade criteria sheets and the location of the errors marked on their essays. In the nonspecific feedback condition, students received a tally of the errors on their grade criteria sheets but the locations of the errors were not marked on the essays. In the grade only condition, students received feedback on the number of points they had earned for each essay. Significant differences were found for pretest-posttest difference (gain) scores for the proportion of errors to the number of words written between the specific feedback condition and the grade only condition. Specific feedback decreased the proportion of errors to words written. The grade only condition maintained the same proportion of errors to words written from pretest to posttest. Significant differences were also found between difference (gain) scores for total errors between the specific feedback condition and the grade only condition and between the nonspecific feedback condition and the grade only condition.

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Journal of Behavioral Education

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