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Writing Groups

team by Creative Stall from the Noun ProjectYou will work in an online writing group to give and receive constructive feedback on the writing projects in the course. You will share drafts of your project, give one another support and feedback, and help one another keep on track in the course.

We will use Canvas and Slack (there are links to both in the right sidebar on every page in this site) as our primary ways of communicating with one another. You may also use Google Drive’s commenting system.

What Does Formative Feedback Look Like

We’ve all had the experience of receiving feedback that didn’t really help us improve our work. The information may be too vague, or it may focus on the wrong things. Worse, the readers may have been afraid to hurt our feelings, so they didn’t tell us much of anything at all.

Our goal is to make sure feedback in this course is always helpful by focusing on formative feedback (rather than summative feedback). Let’s begin with some definitions:

Summative Feedback: Focuses on summary comments and judgments that relate to the quality of the finished product.

Formative Feedback: Focuses on comments that help form and improve the project. Provides advice on how to proceed. Points out where the reader is lost or has questions. Avoids any judgment of quality.

One widely used analogy explains the difference between these two kinds of feedback this way: A chef is using formative assessment when she tastes a dish while cooking to decide if she needs to add anything more. Diners are using summative assessment when they taste the finished dishes and share their comments.

In your writing group, you are helping one another form and improve the project. You won’t make judgments of quality; you will focus on comments that help the others in the group strengthen their projects by giving detailed and constructive feedback.

How Do Constructive Comments Work

The video below, No One Writes Alone: Peer Review in the Classroom, A Guide For Students (6m 33s), demonstrates how students collaborate and provide feedback on drafts for one another. Watch the video, paying attention to the kind of feedback people give and how the authors respond to the feedback.

The online discussions that you have about your writing group should be much like the conversations that take place in the video. When you comment on someone else’s projects, you provide concrete details about what you see and what the writer can do to improve. When someone comments on your projects, remember to be open to suggestions and avoid becoming defensive.

Additional Resources

This chapter from one of our online textbooks offers advice on teamwork and collaboration:

How You Will Work

You will share whatever you are working on with your group in Canvas, using the Discussions tool, primarily in one of two ways:

  • If you write your draft using a word processor like Microsoft Word, you can upload the file directly to the relevant Discussions topic in Canvas. Use the Attach link at the bottom of the Reply window.
  • If you are using Google Docs, you can give your group members the Share link to your draft. Be sure that you set permissions so that your group members can open the file and add comments.

In addition to sharing your draft, you should include some details on what you are working on and what you are interested in improving.

  • Tell your readers any background information that they need to know to understand your draft.
  • Ask your readers to focus on any particular areas you are having trouble with and/or trying to improve.

After you post info about your work, you will comment on the ideas of others in your group. You can respond to your group members with any of the following:

  • Provide constructive, formative feedback and advice, like that shown in the No One Writes Alone video.
  • Work together to solve any challenges or answer any questions.
  • Plan for future conversations.




Icons all from The Noun Project and used under a CC-BY license: team by Creative Stall


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