Red Ink: The Comments Teachers Make Most Often On Student Papers
There’s an oddly fascinating report out from the makers of GradeMark software, a program that enables instructors to place editing marks directly on students’ online papers. The study examined 30 million such comments and tracked the frequency of each type of comment. Its findings, as reported by Leila Meyer in T.H.E. Journal:
“The five most frequently used comments at both the high school and postsecondary levels were ‘missing comma,’ ‘awkward,’ ‘spelling error,’ ‘delete,’ and ‘cite source.’ Other frequently used comments included ‘improper citation,’ ‘run-on sentence,’ ‘comma splice,’ and ‘unclear.’ Thirteen of the 25 most frequently used comments related to composition, a list that included ‘weak paragraph transition,’ ‘fragment,’ ‘tense shift,’ and ‘support needed.’
The study also found a high frequency of comments related to spelling and citation errors, despite ready access to spell checking and source citation tools.
The report speculated that the frequency of these spelling errors could be related to students rushing to meet deadlines or simple carelessness, but that citation errors are more likely owing to lack of understanding. The report suggested that teachers need to work with students to help them understand and practice proper citation.”
What to make of these results? It’s a bit disheartening to learn that there are so many basic errors of spelling and composition being committed. Citations can be tricky, so I’m not surprised to hear that many comments deal with those.
Of course, more detailed or specific comments would, by definition, not make it into the “most frequently used” category. I trust that instructors are offering this kind of more particular feedback.
Teachers out there, do these results line up with the kinds of comments you find yourself putting down on your student’s papers?