That said, I think the set up for quality feedback begins well before the students ever submit their work. In order for teachers to give effective feedback, both the teacher and the students must be very clear of the expectations, guidelines and processes. Knowing the expected outcome and being provided with quality examples as well as tools for completing the work (checklists, rubrics, etc.) gives students a target for which to aim. It also provides teachers and students with common language for providing and accepting feedback.
Another important foundation for effective feedback is individual goal setting. At my school, each student has a "Goal Score Card" which is a living document that lists goals and monitors progress. Frequently reviewing the Score Card with the students allows them to keep their goals in the forefront of their mind, but it also gives the teachers better tools to provide feedback. A student who was working on "varying sentence structure" and "elaborating on existing ideas" would see that language in the feedback given. For example, "I noticed you varied your sentence structure in paragraph 2. Are there changes you could make to paragraph 3 in that regard?"
Carefully structuring my assignments and knowing what each of my students is working on, enables me to give feedback that:
- recognizes and respects the efforts of students
- provides guidance and reminders about areas of need
- challenges students to take action for improvement
One final thought about feedback - students give wonderful feedback to each other. We try to have a peer-review or peer-edit once a week to foster an atmosphere of trust and promote the idea that our work is never really "finished." I love it.
Feedback is difficult and time consuming. I am by no means an expert. But keeping these practices in mind, enables me to give better, more effective feedback.