One of the challenges in providing feedback on student's written work is that contact with students is often limited to one or two class periods per week. Thus in an ideal situation, students submit their written work during one class period, instructors return the work with feedback during the next class period, and students revise the work to resubmit during the next class period. Even in this ideal situation, the feedback and revision process can take a week or more. This time-intensive process often limits an instructor's ability to utilize a formative approach to student writing assignments as the feedback-revision sequence is not practical within the constraints of class meeting times.
Fortunately, advances in technology are creating opportunities for instructors to communicate with students outside of face-to-face meeting times. Specifically, via the use of email, students can submit work to instructors and instructors can provide feedback to students regardless of the regularly scheduled class periods. The edit and comment features of Microsoft Word provide an effective means for instructors to provide detailed feedback (comments, suggestions, deletions, editing, etc.) on students' written work. In order to use these features, instructors simply need an electronic copy of the students' work; students can easily provide this through an email attachment (in either .doc or .rtf formats). Instructors can then review the document, provide feedback, and return the electronic document via email attachment. This entire process can take place without any physical contact between the instructor and student.
The edit feature is designed to allow instructors to directly edit a student's written document while preserving the original document and highlighting all suggested changes. Thus, instructors can review written work and insert information, delete student writing, modify grammar, change punctuation, etc. The edit feature is particularly well-suited for editing student work as it visually tracks all editing suggestions while maintaining the original document. Then, students can review the document and individually choose whether to accept or reject editing suggestions. This feature encourages students to monitor errors, enhance their written communication skills, and improve self-evaluation strategies. In addition, the edit feature provides an efficient means of providing feedback and enhancing written work.
The comment feature is particularly useful for providing general feedback in response to students' written work. Through comments, instructors have an electronic means of giving students information that typically appears in the margins of a traditional paper. Not only does the comment feature allow students and instructors to exchange information electronically outside of the regularly scheduled class period, but it also provides feedback that is easy to read and document. The following steps will help instructors utilize the comment feature. In order to view comments, students simply need to scroll the cursor over highlighted information. When the cursor is positioned over highlighted words, the comments will appear in a separate pop-up box. In addition, students have the option of printing comments so they are readily available to use for revisions.
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