Stuck under a pile of my own grading, but I have a question for you: do you think the final comment on an essay is an essential piece of the puzzle?
I comment expensively throughout essays, because I’ve always felt it’s more useful for students to have concrete feedback, where I say, “Hey, this thing you are doing RIGHT HERE is good/bad/effective/ineffective.” I write a lot. I have a particular felt-tip pen I like for marking (in orange or in lime green), and I will use up one pen per round of essays. No shortage of qualitative feedback, is what I’m saying. Students always comment on how much they like and appreciate my in-esssay feedback, and students who read it and work with it do tend to improve. I’m insecure about 90% of my life as a teacher, but my commenting is solid.
I also use a mini-rubric that I learned in grad school on all essays: TOGS, which stands for thought, organization, grammar, style. Students get a mark for each piece of that puzzle and then an overall mark.
Here’s my confession: I think my final comments are worthless. Either I rehash the commentary in the paper or I have nothing else to add. I realized last time around that almost every essay starts with “You have good ideas, but…” or “This is an interesting essay…” So I told myself I would nix the final comment, and encourage students to pay attention to the far more useful comments within the text.
Except, I can’t. I can’t stop writing these meaningless at worst and repetitive at best comments at the end of student papers. I’m not convinced of the pedagogy of these final comments, and I know students only improve if they engage with the in-essay questions and comments. So what the hell is my deal? When did I get married to the final comment? And why is it that even when we think our pedagogical choices through and feel like we have sound reasons for the choices we make, it remains so hard to let go of the received wisdom of all the teachers who have taught us before?