If you give your students a written or oral assignment, you will also need to provide feedback and assess their language use. This Education Tip tells you how to do that.
How to Give Language Feedback?
Start with determining which competencies the student should acquire with the assignment. Align your language feedback to those intended competencies:
- content-related feedback: respond, for example, to the students’ handling the correct concepts, or the proper use of structural words that support an argument;
- form-related: style, structure, spelling and grammar.
There are three ways to give language feedback:
1. positive acknowledgement, for example:
- “great that you are using that term;”
- “this is a well-structured paragraph”;
2. explanatory (or paraphrasing) feedback, for example:
- do you mean to say that ...?
- so you are actually saying...?
3. corrective feedback. You can correct implicitly, for example, by referring students to a rubric, or explicitly, which means you correct the entire text.
In the context of language development didactics, explanatory feedback and implicit, corrective feedback are a must. This usually enables students to make the transfer to other, subsequent written assignments. However, this does not mean that the other forms of feedback are bad or should not be used.
To Whom to Give Feedback?
Give individual feedback wherever possible. In large student groups, it is best to provide collective anonymized feedback based on the submitted student papers. Discuss what elements are correct and what elements could be improved. Use feedback forms or checklists for this purpose.
By way of example, Ghent University’s Language Policy Office has developed a Style Guide that can be adapted to your study programme/course unit/specific written assignment. This video demonstrates how to use the Style Guide.
How to Assess Language Skills?
Ideally, use the Style Guide to assess language skills. That way, the expectations with regards to language are also clear for the students. An example of a well-written text can also serve to clarify the assessment criteria.
The assessment criteria should always be in accordance with the course competencies/learning outcomes on your course sheet. If not, there is no ground for you to consider language skills in your assessment. Make sure to specify on your course sheet which language aspects you will assess. Discuss assessment of language skills on the level of the study programme in order to come to a coherent, programme-wide approach of language assessment.
Consider the impact of generative AI tools on evaluation. Upload your writing assignment into such a tool and see what it generates. Especially in the field of language skills, there are several tools that compromise a valid evaluation. Make agreements on what can and cannot be done, preferably within your study programme, and communicate this in a concrete and clear way to your students.
Want to Know More?
These (faculty) initiatives may inspire you to boost your students’ academic language acquisition. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- At the Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, within the course unit 'Historical Practice’, history students have to complete several written assignments. After the first assignment, a collective feedback form is posted on Minerva, which includes a 'language' component. After each assignment that follows, common language errors are added to the form. If students in a subsequent assignment make language errors already listed on that form, those errors carry extra weight in the assessment. That way, students are obliged to review this document before submitting each assignment.
- At the Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, within the programme Oriental languages and cultures, language skills are an important factor in written assignments for the courses 'History of the Old Middle East' and 'Society and Religion of Mesopotamia'. Their weight is 4 out of 20 marks. In addition to spelling and grammar, sentence structure and academic language (and the correct use of diacritics) have an impact on the grades. During the lectures, language skills are defined by way of bad practices. The language skills aspect is discussed more thoroughly during the feedback interviews that are done on the basis of the assessment form, where concrete examples from the student's assignment are discussed. During those interviews, the student is sometimes advised to go to Taalonthaal.
- In the Criminology course at the Faculty of Law and Criminology, first-year students write a summary of a source article and have to argue their position. After a plenary feedback session, they write a second version. Through the peer feedback tool in Minerva (replaced in Ufora by PeerScholar), they assess each other's written assignments. In a second plenary session, they are placed in new groups and give the peer feedback face to face. All feedback, including the final assessment, is done with the customised UGent schrijfwijzer.
- The Faculty of Arts and Philosophy has a language policy in English literature for the BA3 course 'English literature: Newer period', and a list of common errors in English is available on Minerva (now Ufora). In the language feedback on assignments, this common errors list is always referred to.
- The faculties of Medicine and Health Sciences and Law and Criminology have developed an (assessment) form for promoters to guide master’s dissertations and to assess them objectively and uniformly. An important part of that document deals with language skills.
- In the programme Criminology, the assistants who assess written assignments in a second bachelor attend a training course ‘Language feedback on written assignments'.
- On the education days of the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration (academic year 2015–2016) and the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture (academic year 2016–2017), the language policy staff organised a workshop 'Feedback on written assignments with the UGent-schrijfwijzer'.
- The Department of Educational Policy organises the assistant training 'guidance of written assignments’.
- The master’s dissertations in the programme Veterinary Medicine are assessed uniformly and objectively with a digital tool, which consists of an electronic system that records the marks and a list of explicit assessment criteria, including language skills.
- The Faculty of Arts and Philosophy uses CorpuScript in the course ‘German: writing skills’ within the programme Applied Linguistics. CorpuScript is an online correction platform with a glossary function that gives indirect feedback on possible problems relating to language use and cohesion.
- In the programme Sociology at the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences, first-year students look at knowledge clips about peer feedback at home. In the lecture, they apply that knowledge in so-called writing clinics, in groups of 3 students.
- In de opleiding Criminologie volgen de assistenten die de schrijftaken in tweede bachelor beoordelen jaarlijks een training ‘Talige feedback geven op schrijfopdrachten’.
- Op de onderwijsdagen van de faculteit Economie en Bedrijfskunde (academiejaar 2015-2016) en de faculteit Ingenieurswetenschappen en Architectuur (academiejaar 2016-2017) werd er een workshop ‘Feedback op schrijfopdrachten met de UGent-schrijfwijzer’ gegeven door de talenbeleidsmedewerkers.
- De Directie Onderwijsaangelegenheden organiseert de assistententraining ‘Begeleiden van schrijftaken’