What can feedback do?
In our study, we learned that feedback provides writers with insights about their own writing, which can help them learn what audiences need.
What can feedback do for us?
Writers who engage with feedback can have a better understanding of audience because they understand that, through writing, they are entering into a conversation with their readers.
My project ended up being way in a completely different mode and displayed way differently because a girl that was like—she plays the bass, she’s in the music school—she’s like, ‘Oh, I’ve done this before and you should try this.’ It was very kind of push and shove kind of revision. I think my writing and me intellectually as a whole I think was pushed forward because of the people and the different array of measures and backgrounds I guess.That was really cool.
Can feedback (really) make better writers?
Receiving feedback provides a way to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of our writing. Giving feedback likewise allows good writers to consider different approaches and perspectives about writing.
One consideration for feedback
Getting feedback from different perspectives can help us write for different audiences.
I don’t think in any of my classes I really had any collaborative projects, but peer reviews have been so extremely helpful. You get a lot from your professor ‘cause obviously they’re professional teachers in writing and stuff, but there’s nothing quite like the feedback that people who are in the same situation as you have. [Peer review] was insanely valuable for learning how to frame it ways that we as students wanted to frame it.
So, how to make feedback work?
Consider what feedback can offer. Experts (such as teachers) or audience members (such as classmates or colleagues) can help writers see their work differently.
When I came here freshman year, I would frequently receive feedback in my classes that my papers needed to be more specific. Many times my [instructors] would circle a sentence and mark in the margin, ‘this could be its own paragraph,’ or ‘develop this idea, what do you mean?’ I was taking complex arguments or ideas and not giving them the amount of space they deserved to be explained fully.… It took practice and a lot of red writing in the margins, but I started to get a hang of this specificity in my academic writing.
What about peer review?
Peer review can help us improve as writers because receiving suggestions from others as well as reading and responding to what others have written can improve the ability to see problems in one’s writing.
Check out Sidney’s perspective on peer review:
Okay. Yeah, so the class was structured that you wrote three eight to ten page personal essays throughout the semester, and you got workshopped once for one of those three essays. It was a lot of personal writing, but it was also a lot of reading, peer editing, and coming in and workshopping. I really enjoyed that class for that reason. People—the first week, no one was really sure. ‘Oh, what are we gonna write about,’ but people started to write about really real things. It was a very, very interesting class to be in, and it made me respect a lot of people that I didn’t know to hear about what they were going through and what they were writing about. I think [instructor] did a really good job of creating a space where we could all talk about things like that. I think he did a good job structuring the peer editing sessions where they were constructive and they weren’t everyone was saying, ‘Oh, great job.’ You got honest feedback, but it was a safe space where people were also telling you what they liked, and you felt okay bringing big ideas to the table….I think I learned a lot, like I said, from having to write those there essays and realizing that people didn’t know me as well as people from home did, so I had to be more specific about my background for my personal pieces to make sense. Then, also, I learned a lot from reading other people’s pieces and the styles and the choices that they made, so it was a great class. I really liked it. Probably one of my favorites at U of M.
Writers can improve through feedback by considering what they can learn from it. Trusting others with writing is not easy, but it can provide useful perspectives and insights.