In grading the sample paper, I made comments throughout the paper that challenged the student’s points and would cause the student to think about potential counter-arguments. Often times, students make generalizations and do not think about the exceptions or issues with their statements. It is important to have students think about opposing arguments because in listing the arguments of the opposition and having the student rebut them, a student can strengthen his or her paper and create more solid, grounded arguments.
I also pointed out areas of the paper that could use more analysis, especially with quotes. The student immediately jumps from quotation to quotation at some points throughout the paper without fully analyzing the quote and connecting it back to the topic sentence of the paragraph. Students tend to stick quotes in paragraphs without thinking about how it can make a specific point of theirs stronger; the student skipped over introducing quotes in some of his or her paragraphs. I made sure to make note of when an introduction to a quote was necessary; providing some sort of context is important so that the reader understands why that quote is relevant.
In addition, a major issue in this paper was connecting ideas back to the central focus of the paper, so I commented on certain points in the paper where such connections could be made. Due to the lack of such connections, there was a lack of consistency in the student’s arguments. It is really easy for a writer to stray from their main point if they don’t draw connections back to the main focus of their paper. Word choice was another aspect I focused on because if it can significantly alter the intended meaning of the sentence; I suggested a few words that may work better in regards to supporting the main argument of the particular paragraph.
The most helpful type of instructor comments are the ones that explain why there is an issue with what the student has written and give advice on how to improve. Comments that just criticize but do not propose any sort of solution are really unhelpful because they just leave the student frustrated. Students are interested in learning why their instructor made a particular comment; once they understand the issue, they acquire a more positive attitude about improving that aspect of their paper. Positive comments are also important because it is really encouraging for students to know that they have successfully accomplished something in their paper. I also have had some students whose instructors who have made only a few brief comments throughout the paper and then gave the students a C+ or lower. This just leaves students puzzled as to what the instructor found to be major issues. Comprehensive feedback is crucial, especially if the student is given a lower grade so the student will know precisely what issues to focus on for improvement.