Coaching (Individual) Students with Their Written and Oral Assignments
A lecturer can have a positive impact on the quality of written and oral assignments by coaching students during their writing process. Good coaching begins with clear instructions. In addition, high-quality feedback and proper preparation of the assessment are essential.
Give Clear and Specific Assignment Instructions
Clear and specific instructions make sure that students know the expectations from the start:
- specify the objectives of the assignment, both in the course sheet and in the assignment instructions;
- communicate the content requirements and lay down the formal aspects: style, structure, language form, reference style, etc. Good examples taken from similar exercises may be useful here;
- discuss the practical arrangements, e.g. timespan and the preconditions (individual vs. group assignment). In case of group assignments, allocate the different roles in advance;
- provide the assessment criteria in advance, so that students can take them into account from the start.
Prepare Students for Assignments
There is a good chance that students may not yet be familiar with specific assignments. Giving an introductory presentation or lecture on how to deal with the assignment is therefore essential. In so doing, try to offer curricular support in order to reach all the students. At the same time, point them towards existing language support initiatives at Ghent University.
Offer general writing tips right from the start to remind the student that writing is a complex process:
- encourage them make an outline or blueprint of their assignment. At a later stage, this will become the table of contents. It will force students to think about structure, establishing links and priorities;
- advise students to write easier parts before the difficult ones.
Give (Interim) Feedback
- make sure your interim feedback is enlightening and specific, e.g. "I read this sentence as... Is that what you want it to mean?" or "So you are actually saying ... I think there's a step missing, don’t you?" Provide additional sources if necessary;
- give enlightening feedback even if students only submit parts of the text, or if they practice a presentation, but always combine it with implicit corrective feedback. That type of feedback uses codes that refer to specific (assessment) criteria in e.g., a rubric. In addition to codes, you can also use combined feedback, in which you give two or three concrete examples to illustrate your point. Avoid explicit corrections: student will not learn much when you rewrite the text for, or take over the presentation from them;
- also give specific positive feedback: “You have structured this paragraph nicely”; “That’s a good intro to your presentation.” A positive experience will give students a confidence boost and break down any possible writing or speaking inhibitions;
- if time is limited, only read one chapter of the writing assignment thoroughly. Make sure to clearly point out structural problems, stylist problems, language form, etc… . Student will make similar mistakes in the rest of their text anyway.Your remarks, therefore, count as feed-up;
- you can also use that feed-up for the entire group: clarify common errors in that assignment so students can avoid making those same mistakes again;
- use interim deadlines.
Make Clear Arrangements about how the Coaching Will Be Organized
- clearly delineate to students when to expect coaching, and how to reach you;
- if you coach individual students, decide whether or not to organize office hours, or whether or not students should make an individual appointment to meet with you;
- you can work with “coaching credits”: students themselves choose when they use a fixed amount of coaching time. This stimulates the student’s self-reliance. If necessary, draw up a supervision agreement.
Want to Know More?
- take the training session ‘Supervising Written Assignments’ for academic assistants;
- read more about feed-up, feedback and feedforward in the Education Tip ‘Feedback: (Almost) Everything You Need to Know’;
- read more about supervising and coaching the master's dissertation in the Education Tip ‘Master’s Dissertation: How to Coach Students?’