Monday, January 26, 2015

3. More, Better, Faster: for Corrective Feedback

At my TESL Toronto Technology for Teachers MiniConference workshop, the third of the three websites I am presenting is

Problem: Providing feedback is very time consuming and tiring. Despite our best intentions, teachers tend to revert to terse voice-of-authority comments on student assignments instead of maintaining a subjective voice-of-the-reader tone because of fatigue. Furthermore, teachers may limit their feedback to only one or two aspects of a student's assignment because of time constraints. 

Solution: provides teachers with a range of automatic feedback tools that assist them in maintaining the more effective voice-of-the-reader commenting tone and assess a student's grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and target structure use. 

How: Here is a step-by-step exercise to familiarize yourself with the range of features on

Step 1: The first step in using is to create a profile. For that, you will need a username and password. It takes just a minute to join. index page
To create an account on the system, click on the registration button. 
The sign-up form on
Fill out the form with your information.
An illustration of how to fill out the form with generic credentials
Note that your username on the system is Click register, and you are done. Simple. Now you are ready to begin using the system.

The Dashboard of
Note that you are automatically provided with 100 credits, equivalent to $10 and enough to assess 100 students' assignments. I want you to experiment with the system without feeling stymied by the thought of having to pay for mistakes. 

Step 2: After creating an account on the system, the first step is to create a grid. A grid is a collection of corrective feedback tools. Grids can be edited and deleted, so feel free to experiment. You can get to the "Create Grid" screen by clicking on the logo, from the dashboard pictured to the right, or from the navigation bar on the left of most screens. 

Start at the top-right of the "Create Grid" screen. (1) Give your grid a name. The grid name will appear as the title of the PDF you return to the student. (2) Write a description of the assignment and the feedback you are providing. The description will appear below the title on the PDF on the first page. What I like to do is to include a brief description of the task that will be assessed. (3) Select the tools you want to use. Most teachers like to add the "Student name" tool and the "Learner text" tool so that it is easy to identify who the corrective feedback is for and to refer back to the text that was submitted.
Create a grid on
Other useful tools include "Check for Errors," the grammar checker tool, "Field Related Vocabulary," a field of study vocabulary checker, "Word Choice," an academic versus conversational word choice vocabulary profiler.

When you add a tool to your grid, you may notice that each tool comes with an Additional Random Comments (ARC) section with comments already in it. ARCs are a list of pre-defined comments that you may want to use when responding to a student's assignment. Below you see that the "Check for Errors" tool comes with three categories of random comments: praise, encourage, and scold. These category headings are never shown to students, but one comment from each category is selected at random and shown to you while you are evaluating a student's assignment. At that time, you will be able to choose which comment to include in your feedback. 

You may wonder why I have chosen to include a random commenting feature with every tool. The reason is to mitigate the negative effects of fatigue on teachers' comments. As teachers tire of evaluating students' assignments, their comments tend to get shorter, more repetitive, and suffer from mission drift. The idea, therefore, is to give teachers an opportunity to write comments before they start evaluating, at a time when they still feel like a reader (instead of a judge) and still have the principles of good pedagogy in mind. 

You will also notice that each comment is a paraphrase of the others under the same heading. In the screen capture below, all of the comments emphasize effort expressed using the voice-of-the-reader to praise the students for their effort, encourage them to continue putting effort into their work, or exhort them to put more effort into their work. This ensures that students get the consistent message that success is within their control and depends on the amount of effort they bring to their studies. But we all know that when we get tired as teachers, we start to write shorter comments like, "Good work," or "Awkward." Short voice-of-authority comments like these can convey the subtle message that the student's effort is irrelevant to our academic autopsy since only the final product matters. We don't intend it, but our fatigue makes us abandon the principles of good pedagogy. The ARC tool gives teachers a way to stay fresh and consistent while evaluating the whole group.

Using the ARC tool is optional. You can remove it  by deselecting the check box above it. You can add and remove categories, rewrite comments. The system makes it easy to comment in your own way. 

You will also notice as you scroll down that each tool includes a rubric. Rubrics are commonly used by teachers to compare a student's work to a series of graded descriptions. When you evaluate a student, you can select a descriptor and grade, and they will appear as part of the corrective feedback you return to the student in the form of a PDF.

Step 3: Save your grid and test it. Click "Check Assignment" and use the following text to test the system. You will see that uses the VirtualWritingTutor's grammar detection rules, but the system gives teachers a greater ability to focus feedback and comment in the feedback generated. 

Sample text with a range of Grammar Errors
I make a lot of mistake that negatively effect my writing. Thats not good. I want always to make the good chioce of verbs. I want also to improve my pronunciation. My English-speaking friends talk about to help, but they never do. I work in a big store on the south shore of Montreal where there are a lot of immigrants people. I'm speaking every day to a men that works there. I think practicing with immigrants is equally as effective. So far, I have work there since 2 weeks and my English is getting more better. Also, I have learned already a lot about retail, but I will like to have a better job. I am waiting still for my first paycheck. They don't have paid me yet. When I will get paid, I will pay my parking tickets. Nevertheless if my English would be more better, I would definitely get a better paying job. I often wonder how many opportunities I would had had if I paid more attention to my nice English teacher in high school.
Student Field of Study Narrative Text
My name is Mary and I'm the paralegal of the Montreal Law Firm. I have been working here for two years and I love my job. At the beginning, I was studying in Youth and Adult Correctional Intervention, but I finally decided to study in Paralegal Technology. Every day, I arrive at work at 9 a.m. and I go to my desk. My desk is in a big and beautiful office and he is just in front of Judy's desk. During the day, I have to do a lot of research and I have to inform the customers. I love the part of my job where I have to do research in my office because I'm alone and it's relaxing.
One day, I had a dream. I was at the mall and I was very rich so I bought a lot of clothes. Then, I received a call from Taylor Swift and she asked me to sing with her. I was so excited because I love Taylor Swift! During the show, I wasn't nervous, but when I started to sing, I suddenly forgot all the lyrics and then, I woke up.
When I woke up, I realized that I was late for work. I got dress quickly and I ate a little breakfast, but I arrived late at work for the first time in my life. While I was saying hello to Alex the bailiff, she made me notice that I was wearing my pants pajamas. I was so desperate so she gave me a coffee, but then, I spilled my coffee on me! Later, Anna the secretary said to me: "Did you know the rumor? There is going to be a lay-off and I hope it is you!"
Then, my boss called me for a performance review interview. He asked me a few questions and, at the end of the interview, he asked me who he should fire and why. I answered: " If I were you, I would lay-off Anna because she doesn't like Taylor Swift."
Finally, the boss laid off Alex. Anna was so happy that she kissed the boss! Everyone was very surprised. A few minutes after, Judy the judge fell on the ground and then she punched me in the face. I asked her why she did this and she apologized. She was thinking that it was my fault, but it wasn't. Then, the ambulance arrived and I went to the hospital.

A Field of Study Video

A Narrative MP3 recording

Corrective Feedback Logo

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