How to Make Your Feedback Stick

Here are some suggestions for how to make your grammar feedback most effective (i.e., leading to successful learner uptake and long-term learning effect) by taking a more systematic approach in your corrective feedback:
1. Diagnosing Grammar Issues
The first and most important step is to ensure that your students understand your feedback as well as your approach towards giving feedback (e.g., why are you giving them feedback? what do all the grammar terms mean? what kinds of errors do you consider more/less important and why?). They also need to be aware of what types of errors they make most often. Try the following steps: 
  1. Try administering "Grammar Diagnostic Test" to test how much explicit/implicit knowledge students have about common ESL grammar errors. After you collect the test result, it's also helpful to have an in-class discussion about grammar issues. In the discussion, you may...
    • Check students' understanding of “Common ESL Grammar Errors” (define any difficult terms for them by using Grammar Term Glossary.
    • Explain your grammar feedback policy. For example, explain types of errors you will address in your feedback, frequency/types of grammar feedback your students can expect on their drafts, and follow-up activities they are expected to do based on your feedback.
    • Provide helpful grammar resources students can use to work on particular grammar issues they have on your course website (or direct them to any grammar workshops/classes available on campus). 
  2. Read your students' essays (final or semi-final) to identify their (performance) errors and share your “diagnosis” with them by pointing out a couple major issues to work on in a grading rubric. Alternatively, you may use this Grammar Diagnostic Chart (Sample) and by commenting on their drafts directly (pick 1-2 example errors).
2. Checking Students' Editing Work
Another crucial step is following up on their revision/editing work after you have given them feedback to hold them accountable and make sure your feedback actually works! You should always require them to edit their work and check if they acted on your feedback correctly (my own research indicates that 62% of students don't check instructors' feedback unless they are required to revise their work further based on the feedback.

Identify which types of errors the students could or could not self-correct successfully. You may give this feedback in writing or face-to-face through individual conferences. You may also have students peer review each other’s grammar correction. Be sure to address the following points in your feedback (or in peer feedback):
  1. Did each correction contribute to the improvement of the writing? If the answer is “no”, briefly explain why the correction was not good and what could be a better correction.
  2. Are there any important grammar error(s) that the student could not correct? If so, highlight the errors and give more detailed or direct correction (hint: according to research, students have trouble correcting "sentence structure" and "word choice" errors). 
3. Providing Resources for Further Study/Long-term Success
It is also a good idea to give resources for further study when/after you give them corrective feedback in their drafts, especially if you notice any reoccurring issues in multiple drafts from the same student. You may use some materials from "Helpful Grammar Resources" post.