Cult of Pedagogy Search

Delaying the Grade: How to Get Students to Read Feedback

June 4, 2017

Kristy Louden


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I have a confession to make: I am terrible at handing back papers. That sounds silly, right? I mean, you literally just hand the paper to the kid whose name is at the top.

But teachers everywhere know how disheartening that small act can be. (It can’t be just me, right?)

There are the eye rolls and the whispering to each other of “What did you get?” and “She gave me a ___.” Next thing you know, the paper you spent so long reading and marking has been shoved into the abyss of the backpack or tossed carelessly in the recycle bin.

Wow, glad I put so much time into that assignment, said no teacher ever.

I honestly got to a point where I would just wait so long to give things back, the kids would kind of forget, and then so would I. Oops.

In English I ask my students to write a lot. I don’t grade everything they write, but when it comes to the “big essays”—the graded, polished drafts—what grade they will receive becomes the sole motivator for their writing. This frustrates me, and, in my opinion, distracts them from what they should actually care about: writing.

This intense focus on the all-important grade was my least favorite part, and it was definitely what kept the stack sitting on the counter behind my desk…for an embarrassing amount of time. It really bothered me that kids didn’t care about the feedback I put on their essays, not just because I took the time to do it, but because I did it to help them. I want them to grow as writers, and most of them do throughout the year, but so many only seem to care about that number.

I won’t lie: It made me angry. Not only did I feel like I had wasted my time, I felt like they just didn’t care. And then the snowball of thoughts would start: How will they survive if they don’t care about feedback? What’s going to happen in college? Or when they get jobs? Ugh! I’m done!

After dealing with this for about nine years, I couldn’t take it anymore. I either had to get over it or fix it. Since I’m not usually one to give up, I set out to find a way to get my students to actually read their feedback and care less about the grade.

The Fix for Ignored Feedback

The solution was remarkably easy and accidentally originated out of my laziness (score one for being a little lazy!). Last year, kids had turned in essays on Google Classroom, but rather than pasting a completed rubric into their essay as I usually did, I made hard copies of the rubric and wrote on them. This meant that I could return papers with comments but without grades.

And from this a whole new system was born: Return papers to students with only feedback. Delay the delivery of the actual grade so student focus moves from the grade to the feedback.

The simple act of delaying the grade meant that students had to think about their writing. They had to read their own writing—after a few weeks away from it—and digest my comments, which allowed them to better recognize what they did well or not so well. The response from students was extremely positive; they understood the benefit of rereading their essays and paying attention to feedback. One boy said, “Mrs. Louden, you’re a genius. I’ve never read what a teacher writes on my essay before, and now I have to.”

The Plan

1. Grade the Papers
After collecting student papers, grade them (hard copy or electronic) as you usually would with comments on the written piece, but keep the rubric separate.

2. Plan Independent Work
Plan accordingly by creating opportunities for students to do independent or group work for a few days when it’s time to return papers to students. This is probably the most vital part of the process, because it will give you time to conference with individual students.

3. Return Papers
When you finish grading the papers, return just the written work to students, not the completed rubric. When I first tried this with students, I put the following directions up on the board when I returned the essays:

I now incorporate these instructions into the student copy of the rubric. Below is one page of that rubric, which includes the reflection section.


Student Reflection Form (get a blank copy here)


4. Time to Reflect
Return the essays during class, allowing time to explain, time for kids to read their essays, and time for them to clarify if needed. Encourage them to go slowly. (Bonus step: Walk around and listen. Hear the difference. Honestly, you probably won’t hear a lot of talking or comparing. If they are talking, it will be to themselves about what they are noticing.)

5. Conference with Each Student
This step is where the magic happens.

Since you’ve planned for independent work, you will have time to meet with each student individually. I do my conferences on a large whiteboard-painted table; I have found that since moving these from my desk to this table, our conferences are more productive. I’m not distracted by the stuff on my desk, kids are able to spread out (Chromebook, reflection, essay, etc.), and as a bonus, we can use the surface of the table when we need to do some planning. These meetings don’t have to be more than a couple of minutes per student.

6. Revision
I always offer students the opportunity to rewrite their essay. Above all else, my goal is to help students become better writers. If this means they have to do it a couple of times, then so be it. Depending on the assignment, these are the usual requirements:


And that’s it! Okay, looking back over what I said, it sounds like a lot, but really it’s very easy for you. I think this is the best change I have made to the writing process in the last few years. Students have become more reflective (and sympathetic of how long it takes me to grade—haha!), their writing has improved, and I return papers much more quickly—and happily—than ever before. ♦


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  1. I like this approach. I always return papers w/ comments only. Kids must go to the gradebook portal and check their grades. I’m not a big rubric fan, unless the rubric is specific to the assignment and not generic.

    I teach AP Lit and find that early in the year it’s helpful to put comments on a separate page and write nothing on the essay. Kids pay a lot of attention to these comments.

    Also Google docs is great for interactive discussions w/ students, especially if I pose questions in the comment section.

    • I struggle with rubrics sometimes as well. Once I started using the Two-point rubric, I became more comfortable with them. The rubric along with this system has really helped me and my kiddos. I like Docs for commenting along the way. I give kids checkpoint deadlines and give them feedback on specific parts of the essay as they go. It’s been helpful. Thanks for sharing!

    • Jessica W says:

      Thank you for this; I think it’s excellent! We do this in our math department; it really helps put the focus on the work, not the grade. In our case students receive the assessment back with comments, correct any errors, then receive the test and corrections back with the grade. Some teachers also ask students to grade themselves. Students reflect more on their work and also better understand why they earned their grade.

  2. Brande N McCleese says:

    This is so amazing! I actually did something similar in my Developmental Reading & English course but not this well developed and not with a reflection form. I absolutely plan to implement into my courses in the upcoming semesters.

  3. Lisa says:

    How long are your classes? How much time do you spend with each student per conference? How many students do you have? Can we use your template?

    I will be teaching Senior English next year and really want my students to learn the value of looking at comments before they head off to college.

    • Our classes are 48 minutes. My biggest class was 28 and smallest was 23. We conference throughout the writing process, but thee reflective conferences are only 1-3 minutes. Just a quick “what did you think?” kind of conversation.

      Definitely use the template! Follow me on social media or my blog if you want to connect or if I can be of further help! 🙂

  4. tf says:

    When I first started this, kids handed in terrible drafts without any proofing at all, knowing they wouldnt get a grade. I ended up doing twice the work. Now I give a full grade for the draft and another for the revision. Works much better for me and they try harder.

    • My kids still get a grade, it’s just delayed so they have to read the feedback in order to get the grade in the grade book. Then they have the opportunity to revise if they want. They also get grades for the process, so it’s not just a final grade.

      • Leigh says:

        What kind of grades do you do for the process? We are required this year to enter 3 grades a week and it’s going to be very hard for me during the writing process I think.

        • It often depended on the writing assignment for me. On bigger assignments, I’d have several “checkpoint” grades throughout the process. Thesis checks, a paragraph check, having your draft done check, etc. Those usually went in my smallest homework or participation grade categories. I don’t do a lot of grades, so I don’t have an exact answer–I’m sorry! Yes, 3 per week would be TOUGH!

    • Melissa says:

      I don’t tell my students that the draft they turn in is a draft, at all. They bring their first drafts to peer review, then have 1 night to make revisions and turn in a clean, proofread essay the next day, BUT they always get 1 week to make revisions and return the essay for the possibility of earning a few more points. If they’re invested in improving their writing, they’ll do it, and if they aren’t, they can choose to keep their original grade.

  5. Kim says:

    This is great advice!! I currently teach 5th Grade and am working on my National Boards Components 3 and 4 for the upcoming school year. Would I be able to use this for my Component 4? I know that building assessments for students need permission for copyrights. Can all teachers use this?

    • I would be thrilled for you to use it! Please let me know if you have any questions or if I can help in any way. 🙂

  6. Karen Reedy says:

    Brilliant! I did something similar this year BUT put the grade on top. The result…I had some students tell me that they didn’t need to make any revisions because they received a high grade-UGH!!! Thanks for posting.

  7. EJ says:

    Implementing meaningful feedback is one of our school’s top priorities for the coming year. I love your approach! However, I teach 6th, 7th, and 8th graders with SLDs and/or mild cognitive impairments–using your approach “as is” will likely be overwhelming for them. Can you recommended a scaffolding approach to this? Thanks!

    • Let me think on this a while. I’m sure there’s a way!

    • Hi there,

      sorry I haven’t gotten back to you. Could you maybe email me so we could talk about your question? You can reach me by clicking on the “contact” page on my website:


  8. Yifang Daisy Chang says:

    This is great sharing. Thank you. I plan to use it in my Chinese classes. The first class I thought of was my AP Chinese, actually, I could use it in all levels too. I am a bit of concern about the independent work, what do I assign?

    • That is completely up to you! Here are some examples from my classroom though:
      –after their first literary analysis essay was due, my students were independently reading Of Mice and Men, so I would call them up during that time to chat for a couple minutes
      –at the end of the year, my students were working on a Southern Gothic Literature unit. So one day I introduced the unit, and then while kids were reading A Rose for Emily, I met with some students. Another day, their groups were putting events in order and discussion, so I’d meet with a couple, take a lap around the classroom, and then meet with a couple more.

      The idea is that you shouldn’t have to change too much, but just plan to give essays back when you have 2-3 days where kids can be working independently or in groups with little “direct teaching” beyond maybe the first and last few minutes.

      Please let me know if I can help! You can reach me on IG, Twitter or FB @loudenclearblog

  9. Summer says:

    I’ve been working on improving the feedback system in my classroom as well. I’ve always delayed returning the grade, yet a student this year told me that when I do that, the students still don’t read the comments, they just wait for me to post the grade. (The little angels.) So I added a step where they have to respond to questions that I ask them in my feedback. (e.g., How might changing this sentence to active voice strengthen it?) Yet, I really like your idea of them asking the questions, & especially of them thinking about their grade. Their idea of what they should get and their subsequent disappoint is so difficult to manage, and this seems to address that well. I have a question, though. In a comment above, you said they also “get grades for the process.” What do you mean?

    • This process has really, really helped with this problem. They must reflect, they must read what I wrote, and they must grade themselves, but the kicker is that they MUST come talk to me about it! It’s hard to fake that part!

      As far as grades for the process, I usually give my students completion grades (not my favorite, but it provides some motivation to not wait to the end to write the essay) along the way. For example, first their annotated sources are due, then a thesis, then their first body paragraph, etc. Also, I use Google Docs, so I give feedback on these things along the way, in addition to conferencing with them throughout the process. Please feel free to contact me if you have more questions! (@loudenclear blog on IG, Twitter and Facebook)

  10. Maria Lennon says:

    Just reread your rubric and was wondering how you arrive at a grade. I was thinking of adding a point range at the top of each column and adding down. Any suggestions?

    • I have done numbers at the top in the past. On the rubric I actually gave the grades on I think I did have numbers (I don’t have it here in front of me). Basically the column on the right = A, Middle = B, and the left = C and below, depending on how much they missed. I know it’s not super concrete, but it works for me and my students!

  11. LAVINIA BELLI says:

    I do something similar with my students and it works great. In addition what I do is take one of two sentences from every essay, print them on a page and give copies to the students. We correct a couple of mistakes together and then discuss what is the problem with the sentence. Students end-up labeling the mistakes with my help, for example: verb tenses, subject-verb agreement, etc. and in that way they get enough vocabulary and expressions to identify and name their own mistakes. (I teach English as a second language in Norway).

    • This is a great idea! I do something similar with thesis sentences: we correct first drafts together so kids can get an idea of revisions they need to make. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Christine says:

    I teach math and also use a delayed grade strategy. When I return assessments, I identify the mistakes with only limited information (i.e. Circle a missed negative, etc.). Students make corrections to their problem-solving, explain their errors and resubmit. Then they’ll get their original grade and their adjusted grade for completed corrections. This has helped to identify and correct a lot of misunderstanding in math. They have a sense of how well or how poorly they’ve done when the see the quantity of markings, but the emphasis is placed on knowing how to make the corrections, rather than passing the test. Of course, they can’t get a perfect score from corrections, so there is still incentive to study and do your best the first go around.

    • Sarah Foster says:

      Christine – I teach 8th-grade math and I am really interested in your idea and processes. If you’re willing to share, please email me I like this WAY better than retake tests!

    • This is great! Thanks for sharing! Now I can help some of my math colleagues. 🙂

    • Dwayne Clouse says:

      Christine, what level math do you teach? I teach at a high school that has an assessment retake policy. I often feel like I’m in a never ending loop of grading. I would be interested in your ideas and how you implement them in your class. If you would be willing to pass on your ideas/insight, please contact me at Thanks!

  13. Lorie says:

    I did something very similar to this with my last essay this year, but I actually had students sit with me and grade their essays with me using a rubric while providing written comments. Very effective. I had more students revise than ever but still not enough. Looking forward to trying your strategy.( All of my students are below grade level as 8th graders, so getting them motivated to work on an essay again is difficult.) Thank you for sharing.

    • That sounds amazing! How long did it take you? I do a LOT of conferencing throughout the writing process, so we have a lot of those conversations that you probably have during this process. Very cool!

  14. Katie says:

    I love this approach! Would you use it with timed essays, or just with process pieces?

    • I’ve used it with in-class essays and longer (research/argument) essays. It’s worked really well with all of them so far! 🙂

  15. Chris Miller says:

    Hi Kristy,

    Great idea. And it works! I have two variations that I use. The first is similar to your idea but not as detailed. I will “give” them an “incomplete” in the grade book (which calculates as a zero). The assignment is returned with my comments, and students revise and resubmit. When they have revised enough (meaning that every point in the rubric is covered), they get the full number of points.

    The second variation has me giving a grade, and the student can get a better grade. I give feedback in Google Docs/Classroom with a grade. But–because of the rubric–the grade is usually not very good (like 20%). Students can (as with all my assignments; hey, it’s writing!) revise and resubmit for a better grade. Until they get a grade they’re happy with (and then they stop resubmitting), I comment and return. I make my own Google doc with common comments that I can copy/paste into their assignment and I add more personal ones when needed. My comments are a bit vague at first–“There are misspelled words in this essay.”–because I want them to struggle a bit, and they don’t have to struggle if I highlight something and give them the “answer.” With each resubmittal and return, my comments get more specific. I keep a Google doc with links to short YouTube videos (formatting Works Cited in Google Docs, in-text citations, thesis statement). I find they tend to watch a 2-minute video rather than read my comment, but whatever.

    I have gotten some push back–mostly from parents. Students quickly learn that I’m doing this differently. But they actually improve as writers because I don’t let them get away with mediocre work. And they step up their game on the next assignment because they know they have to.

    I have had students revise and resubmit more than 6 times. Yes, it’s a little extra grading on my part, but I have learned to assess only certain skills rather than giving them a bloodbath of “red ink.”

    I also find that students are much, much more willing to revise and resubmit because we use Google Classroom. They get an email alert right on their phones–and they can click right into the assignment and revise right on the phone. (I can’t say enough good things about GAFE.)

    • I LOVE this! I’d love to pick your brain a bit more! Are you Twitter or Facebook? If so, can you find me and send a message? I can be found on both with @loudenclearblog

      Thanks for sharing!!

      • Lezlee Garvey says:

        Kristy, I wasn’t sure how to leave my own comment, so I’m jumping on this one. I am also fascinated by Chris’ methods. I just finished my first year teaching 7/8 ELA and I really struggled with essays. What kinds of comments do you leave? What are your biggest focuses when you grade? I have tried a couple methods including attach a to-do list with the prompt and grade according to errors the students made, read through for and circle all errors and focusing solely on content. I really enjoyed reading your post, and as I’m going into my second year, I’d love to incorporate your method into my own classroom. Please let me know your thoughts, and thank you in advance!

    • Nikki Smith says:

      Yes, Chris! This is how to make the most of GAFE and get students to actually care about improving their work 🙂

  16. Geoff White says:

    Hi Kirsty

    Great concept – a little like Phaedrus, but better.
    Out of interest, how many pieces of work do you grade over a year (I’m not sure how long your terms might be)


    • Thanks! It’s hard to pinpoint an exact number of pieces of work that I grade. My kids write a lot, but I don’t necessarily “grade” it all–some is for participation, some is for practice. I don’t do this process with everything, obviously, but I do it a couple times each semester. We have two semesters with two quarters in each.

  17. Lauren Jackson says:

    I have been using a similar process to yours for several years and have really appreciated the difference it makes to student focus on their writing. One more step in the revision process that I find helpful is to ask students to include a brief one-paragraph reflection about how they made their writing stronger. This helps them think about the effectiveness of their changes and also helps me understand what their goals were for the revision. Sometimes students are interested in working on a particular aspect of their writing, and it might not be what I was thinking needed the most work.

  18. Heather Voss says:

    What is the CSI format for writing as mentioned on the rubric? MLA guidelines are also mentioned-do you have a printout of these?
    Heather Voss

    • Great question! CSI stands for Claim Support Insight. This is the general organizational structure we encourage them to use in essay paragraphs. State a claim (topic sentence w/ an argument), support it (with evidence, quotes, etc.), and provide insight about the support (analysis, commentary). It’s worked well because it’s easy to remember. It has structure but allows for experimenting as well. I do not have a specific MLA handout–it’s something we work on together before papers are due. If you email me at I can send what I find about CSI and MLA, if you like! 🙂

  19. Christine says:

    I love this! I actually teach in higher-ed – but many of the struggles with writing are the same as K-12 (unfortunately)! We have students do professional documentation; but grading and helping them learn to reason through the process is very frustrating. I tried something similar to this, with Pass/Fail and rewrite opportunities last year. I didn’t have my process well defined and it never really drove them to think about their writing. I also have a colleague who does a huge evaluation assignment that she gives very thoughtful feedback on and feels it is a waste of time. Only a handful of students come discuss the feedback with her. I will tell her about this method. She will love it! Thanks so much for sharing this!

    • That’s great! Thank you! 🙂 I wish there was better communication between HS and higher ed, so we could try to align some of our goals and such. I feel like I’m preparing them for college, but then I don’t really know what they are doing in college anymore!

  20. Steve says:

    Definitely some sound pedagogical advice. I teach science, but there’s a load of literacy inherent in the subject, be it research writing or lab reports. So I try and structure my formative assessments in a way that really force the kids to understand the importance of the feedback I give them, in terms of preparing them for these summative assessments. In that sense, as they craft the formatives I am giving them constant “live” feedback: I can look at what they are doing on their Google Doc and make comments as they work. In addition, when they finish the piece, I can give them overall feedback, so they can use these to figure out where they would be in terms of meeting the standards, which are in the rubric. The formatives don’t get a grade, although I do supply a rubric so they can have an idea of where they are.

    So when it comes time to do the summative- in a perfect world- they can look back at the formative assessment and use this as a “guide” to how their summative should look. And when it comes time to marking the summative, I’ll go ahead and maybe write a short paragraph addressing the overall strengths and weaknesses of the piece and mark the rubric. In some cases, I won’t even give written feedback on the summative. If the rubric is written well enough – and the kids have a strong understanding of what the key verbs in the rubric entail- then that should be enough for them to self-assess, and figure out where they can improve.

    (Oh, and when they do their portfolio reflections, I also have a question along the lines of how the teacher’s feedback helped their decision-making on their summatives. Sometimes you just have to lay it out there, LOL.)

  21. This is a really well thought-out process. Thanks for sharing it.

  22. Nikki Smith says:

    I’m all for strategies to get students to read and learn from feedback, but about halfway through your post, I started to wonder why you don’t utilize the comment section in Docs and the private comment option in Google Classroom instead. I teach high school math. This past year I gave a partner project where students had to create a problem relating to a topic we were studying, and then offer a solution. I assigned the project in Classroom and students completed their work in Docs. Throughout the entire process, I was in Docs reading their work and making comments and suggestions… AS THEY WERE WORKING — not after they were already finished. Isn’t our goal to get students to produce the best quality work they possibly can? If we delay feedback until after they “finish”, they lose the opportunity to improve it (unless, of course, you allow them to turn it in again after you’ve grade it). I also use the private comment section in Classroom to generate conversations with students, similar to your one-on-one conferences. The difference is, however, that my conversations are not just limited to the 50 minutes that students are sitting in my room each day.

    • That’s a great point, Nikki. I should have clarified that DURING the writing process I do utilize Docs and comments. I also conference with kids throughout their writing process; however with this post, I was focusing on AFTER the process was over and they turned in what they believed to be their “final” draft. I want to see them grow from essay to essay, so this delayed grade and reflection helps kid to retain what they learned before their next essay. 🙂

    • And yes, as I mentioned later in the post, kids get the chance to rewrite after their “final” grade. I want them to grow, and if that takes a few tries then so be it.

  23. Matt says:

    Thanks for this post.. I like the idea of developing strategies for encouraging students to take on feedback. For drafts, I have gotten into the habit of recording screencasts as I read through their work. I find talking much faster than writing and you can also edit or markup the document as you go. Quick upload and share via the cloud makes it quick and easy to get to students. Haven’t done this for final grading yet but could mention the grade in a video in order to encourage students to watch the video in order to get their grade..! I guess they see the importance of feedback during the task but not afterwards. Linking tasks to prior learning and skills may also help students to see the value of feedback…

    • Yes, Matt, I use Screencastify to give feedback too! I’ve used it for final drafts, but I prefer it for the process more. Like you said, I feel like kids see the value during the process, but less so after the fact. It’s very frustrating! I like the idea of putting the grade in the video–that might be a good choice for some of our work. Thanks for sharing!

  24. Amy Morsman says:

    I teach college-level students, and a few years ago I adopted the “give the grade later” method. I too loved the results. A student in a writing-intensive seminar said, “I always just flip to the back of the paper to see the grade, and then, if I look at the comments at all, I do so to see if the grade is justified. I can’t do that anymore, and it actually makes me pay attention to your comments.” On the reflection aspect of the process, just this year, I started telling my students — on the day that they had just submitted a polished paper/project — that there was one final step for them to take before I would evaluate their work, and that step was to reflect. I would email the class four simple questions that got them to reflect particularly on their writing, their use of sources, and most importantly what they had done differently in this assignment based upon the lessons they had learned from other assignments and from the feedback they had received earlier in the semester. Using this approach was quite helpful in having them take ownership for all aspects of their work, and seeing their reflection before I even looked at the papers was informative and allowed me to hone in on skills that they had indicated they were working hard to sharpen. When I did finally share the grade (a week after they received my paper feedback — so that those comments would have plenty of time to sink in), I sent the grade in an email which said, “Your paper has earned the grade of __.” To me, language matters here, and after all that they have done to reflect and to digest my feedback, they should be able to see that they have earned something, not passively received it. Thanks for sharing your process!

    • I love this! I like the idea of having them write a reflection. I have them reflect with some specific questions, but I think I want to make it more of a little writing assignment in itself. I love the question of what specific things that you’ve learned did you use to make your paper better. Thanks for sharing!

  25. Alejandra says:

    Do you think this can work for college students (English major or Teaching English major in a non-US university)? I mean, young adults do the same, they focus on the grade they got and don’t read the feedback. I always complain with fellow professors that students (in college) don’t care about improving their writing if they get a grade right away, even after one-on-one sessions discussing their writing process. Once you hand in the rubric, the interest in the assignment is gone! I’m teaching a college course on essay writing next semester and I was thinking of ditching the final essay, which never gets a re-write, and instead, I want to focus on 4 essays and their own correction report based on a reflection similar to what you present.

    • Alejandra, great question! The comment above yours from Amy Morsman sort of addresses this! She is a college teacher who uses a method similar to this, so I think, yes, it can work! I think the idea of reflection is SO important–maybe a reflection of all four essays could be their final writing? How did they grow over the course of the semester? I definitely think you should try it! I’d love to hear how it goes. 🙂

  26. Stephanie says:

    I like this idea a lot. I’ve been struggling with many of the same things you mention in this article.

    Have you tried to use Kaizena? It allows students to upload an essay in Google Classroom or via Google Docs and then you can provide oral feedback directly on the essay. I tried this with one paper, and the students really liked it; if they forgot what I said during a conference, they could just ‘replay’ my comment and hear it again. I could also provide more detailed feedback while speaking rather than just writing my comments.

    • Yes, I have used Kaizena, although more recently I’ve started using screencastify to record the screen while I give comments. I’ve found it’s simpler than the process for Kaizena as I can do it all in Canvas without having to move to other programs. I love the fact that I can explain what I mean without it taking longer!

  27. Kelly Pivik says:

    At the college level, we have the same problem with students not reading the comments, even when they are seniors. So frustrating! We have created a class to introduce writing and APA style, and I’m going to implement this with the article summaries that lead to their paper. I’m going to make them more uncomfortable by forcing them to meet with me in my office, and it’s for points. Thanks for this!

  28. Stacey Atwood says:

    This is pure genius… can’t wait to try it. I teach 6th grade English. Every year, there are always a few that just won’t do the assignment. Having a conference with every single kid, starting with those who didn’t do the writing, will also help me with the issue of those that choose the zero grade rather than write. No more zero grades because they will have to write something while with me one on one in conference. I think I will reconference with those kids after I conference with the rest. This will really give me insight into each student, and the WHY behind not turning in work. Thank you!

    • Stacey, I am so glad you enjoyed this and think it will help your 6th graders! I hope it does!! I’d love to hear how it goes and how you tweak it to make it work for you!! 🙂

  29. I added this note in a private comment in Google Classroom for each student. Curious about the returns.

    “Please review the feedback, then visit Infinite Campus for the grade. Do not look for your scores first. Read my comments first. Let me know you’ve read my comments by leaving me some feedback.”

    • I’d love to hear how that works for you! I feel like my kids would need more direction for the “leaving me some feedback.” I’m sure I’d get a lot of “I read your comments” as feedback! haha! What grade do you teach?

  30. Paul says:

    When I was teaching in grad school (UC Berkeley, Political Science), I watched with horror a few times as students picked up their mid-term papers, turned to the back page, read the grade…and then *threw the paper into the trash*.

    It boggled my mind, mostly because I was a UC Santa Cruz undergrad back when there were no grades to be had. We pored over the comments on our papers because that was the only feedback we got. And we used to get pissed off if there weren’t many comments from the professor. It wasn’t unusual for a disgruntled student to send a paper back for a second reading because they felt a bit cheated of feedback.

    So my recommendation would be to eliminate grades.

    Can’t wait for that idea to take off.

    • Ugh, it is SO frustrating! I always wanted to know how to get better too, but so many of these kiddos are focused on their grades (parents have a LOT to do with that, I’d argue). I can’t wait for the day we give up grades–unfortunately, our darn education system moves like a dinosaur!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!! 🙂

  31. Colleen says:

    In your template, you mention CSI format for writing. What is this? Do you mind sharing? Thanks!

  32. I like what you did their make them read the comments until they are ready and revised. Clever. As an elective teacher I make my students write papers in another language and they often do not ready the corrections or comments.

  33. Martin Volk says:

    Love the idea of delaying the grade. I will try to make this work in my classroom!!

  34. Olivia Ducharme says:

    I really love this tactic, especially as a creative writing student. A majority of my professors did the same thing, giving notes and then having conferences privately through the semester. I got A’s on papers throughout my primary school education but never much feedback, so getting that once college began was really nice. I definitely want to implement this tactic in my future classroom.

  35. Such a good idea for emphasizing the writing process over grades! My undergrad thesis advisor did something similar with us (throughout the process, not for the final product), and it worked really well.

    Do you have any advice for keeping conferences short?
    I have a feeling I would get trapped in long (4+ minute) conferences with students and it would take me forever to do them with every student… (All speculation for now since I am a preservice teacher!)

    • Hey Emily, it can be tough but I think if you give them very specific discussion points, it makes it easier. Also, I have conferences over the course of several days to give some leeway. Finally, I tell them that if they have more to discuss, they can schedule a time to meet with me before/after school or during lunch.

  36. Any ideas on how this will work with math. I’m having a hard time getting students read my feedback to them. I am currently leaving a comment in the gradebook with an incomplete marked. This isn’t really helping because they are okay with the original grade given.

    • Hi LaDonna! Did you read through the comments? I know some teachers were discussing using this in math class, but I can’t remember exactly what was discussed. Feel free to shoot me an email ( and we can discuss further! 🙂

    • Raquel Sherman says:

      Hi LaDonna, I’m a Chemistry teacher and this year I started implementing a system that gets my students to process feedback more deeply. It’s mostly on low-stakes quizzes (what I call “Knowledge Checks” or KC’s) and they have to do corrections for the ones that they got wrong. Then they have an option to do a retake (I’m happy to explain some more details later if you’re interested). Although students don’t LOVE having to think about their work, I’ve seen a difference when it comes time for the test, and students have reported that this forces them to check their understanding throughout the unit so that they don’t have to study as much right before a unit assessment. I’d be happy to talk more if you’re interested! Reply to this and perhaps we can exchange emails 🙂

      • Brent Ferguson says:

        Raquel, I very much appreciate your comment about how your delayed-grading system requires students to check their own understanding throughout the unit. My feedback-and-grades-decoupled system also has that effect, and I love how it works well on behalf of the durability of student learning.

    • Brent Ferguson says:

      I’m sorry to be reading this excellent article and your comment only now, well (years!) after it was written. Perhaps you’ve already gotten help implementing this idea (decoupling feedback from grades) from other sources. But if not, or if you’d like to engage it again/further, please feel free to email me at I’ve been doing it in my HS math classes for over a decade, and with really good results.

      The gist is this: (1) students take a quiz/test; (2) I mark it with two letters* on each problem that signal how well they did in two categories, “doing the math” and “communicating their math” (a.k.a. justifying their result by showing a readable solution process); (3) they get this back and write a complete “CRE” (correction, reflection, and evaluation), then resubmit that, with the original quiz on the top, within a week from when I handed it back to them, (4) I read through their CRE packet and verify/adjudicate the grade that they had provisionally assigned it.

      Every year, my students grouse at how much more work they do in my class compared to other teachers. I do what I can to ‘sell them’ on the process, but mostly, it’s the experience of it that makes the case most effectively. By 3 months into the year — and definitely at year’s end when our school has students fill out anonymous surveys about the course experience — the kids are raving about how helpful the CRE process and the JPNCiI feedback system were for them, and how much math they’ve retained for use on the final exam and in subsequent years. It’s lots of work for you and for the students, but over time, the learning/work ratio is much higher than anything else I’ve used or seen. They can really feel/tell the difference it makes, and they appreciate it. : )

      * the letters for communication are J (fully justified), P (partially just.), or N (not justified); for correctness, I write either C (correct), i (minor incorrectness/error, or I (major incorrectness/error). So for each question, they get either a JC, Ji, JI, PC, Pi, PI, NC, Ni, NI. And yes, I’ve used every one of those combinations, though naturally, some are more common that others!

  37. Anonymous says:

    I love this idea and had much success delaying grade delivery at my previous HE institution. It really did encourage students to focus on the feedback. It also had the surprise result of lowering grade complaints and requests for higher marks (a common occurrence at that institution). I’m sad to say that at my current HE institution, we as faculty do not have control over anything that happens in our classrooms. The feedback and marks must be delivered via Turnitin, which is given to the students exactly 3 weeks after submission, regardless of whether the marks are completed earlier. Last term I printed off the feedback (without the marks) and gave it to the students so that we could discuss it. Students were commented on the value of this exercise, but I’ve since been told this is not allowed. Admin in HE are getting in the way of quality, evidence-based educational practices.

    • It’s really frustrating to hear this. I’m wondering if there are any colleagues who share a similar pedagogy as you, that you could just talk to. Perhaps at some point, if a few people are interested in studying a practice, you could share this post or other research-based articles with admin, just to try to start the beginnings of a conversation.

  38. Beth Van Houten says:

    One year I simply highlighted anything I had an issue with–whether it was a simple misspelling, a word choice, or a misused fact. Students were asked to review the papers and revise…with the caveat that they were supposed to determine why I had highlighted as many issues as possible. (I also wrote positive comments in places that merited them.) Students had two weeks to conference with me and rework their papers before resubmitting. Only the resubmission received a grade. No resubmission, no grade.

  39. Ranae Pincock says:

    I tried this with some adjustment on a 7th grade science project. There are 30 students in this class (Life Science). Each class is one hour long. The students were to complete a cell cycle poster as part of a group. There were 8 groups. After the projects were completed, each student filled out a peer evaluation on their group members.

    I modified the rubric to fit our project. I then took a picture of each project and placed it in a Google Doc along with my feedback. This time I printed out the page, but in the future I will just share it to save resources. I gave each student their feedback and had them complete the reflection and self-evaluation. It took 2+ days to complete the conferences (they were doing online lab stations). For revisions I provided each student with a cell cycle template. It was easier and cheaper this way instead of another poster.

    My take-away is that the same students who blow off other options for fixing papers or test blew this off. Some didn’t turn in reflections. Some reflections were not very in depth, BUT some were amazing. I had some students offer good counterarguments with evidence for my feedback. All students seemed to look forward to the conferences. The amazing thing is that our grades were all pretty close after the students reflected on their projects. I felt it was a good experience. The revisions helped most grades and allowed students to put individual ownership on the project.

  40. Muhammad Luqman Khan says:

    This is simply an excellent way to grade the essays. Simply handing them over to students after grading didn’t work out for me as well. I’m going to follow this process now to grade the essays of my students.

    Thank you.

  41. Meagan Randall says:

    I like the idea of leaving constructive comments and then revision time for student to get a better idea on how to correct their formative work.

  42. Brent Ferguson says:

    This is great. I teach math, and have for over 13 years now been using a system that decouples feedback and grades. I appreciate the courage it takes to enlist students to “do the heavy lifting,” but (as you state in your piece) their deeper engagement is an important part of making it stick. It was inspired by a local friend at a different school (fun punchline: having both transitioned away from our former institutions, we now teach at the same school!) and then modified so that I could give math students (a) decoupled feedback, (b) more authority in the feedback/grading process, (c) the chance to develop reflective and self-assessment skills. It turns out that some research (Lipnevich and Smith @ ETS, 2008) verified more objectively the anecdotal ‘evidence’ I had always trusted, so that helped bolster my claims to my students and their parents — as well as to other educators to whom I speak at conferences on this topic — that this is grounded in solid educational theory and practice, not just my intuition. I have a pretty idiosyncratic feedback & grading system that I share, stating that teachers should not try copy it whole-cloth, instead borrowing what would be helpful in their context. BUT…I do always emphasize that the one thing they SHOULD take away above all else is the decoupling of feedback and grades. Thanks for writing this and for sharing the specifics of your practice within the context of writing.

  43. I think the future belongs to distance education. And the pandemic showed us that you can do a lot of everything remotely – this saves time and can save our health. The most famous universities are planning to switch to distance learning after the quarantine measures. In addition, students are thus more engaged in self-education, which improves the quality of the material performed and their application of new knowledge.

  44. Recently a colleague sent me the link to your blog. I was intrigued by and pleased to see the similarities and resonances!
    I am a professor at the University of Edinburgh – and I had similar experiences to Kirsty’s. I work with moslty postgraduate students, and they have, of course been subject to many years in educations systems that have continually re-inforced that the grade is the only thing that really matters. After several years of ‘delaying the grade’ and then several more years of researching student responses etc. I wrote the following article and published in in 2018 on the University’s ‘Teaching Matters’ website. I hope it is of interest.
    Best wishes

  45. This is so amazing! I actually did something similar in my Developmental Reading & English course but not this well developed and not with a reflection form. I absolutely plan to implement into my courses in the upcoming semesters. Thank u so much…

  46. This is so amazing, As far as grades for the process, I usually give my students completion grades (not my favorite, but it provides some motivation to not wait to the end to write the essay) along the way. For example, first their annotated sources are due, then a thesis, then their first body paragraph, etc.

  47. Sandra Vidal says:

    I’m eager to try this out once students complete the current narratives they are writing! My only concern is how you manage the quick 1 – 3 check ins with students before they turn in their revised draft. I’m curious as to how you managed this? Was it during class time or after school? I am working on working less outside of contract hours so I’m hesitant about the idea of having to conference with multiple students outside of class time, but I’m also not sure how I would manage these check ins during classtime when we only have 45 minutes a period.

    • Margaret Harris-Shoates says:

      Good question, Sandra! In the post, Kristy mentions a couple of things that she does to help manage student check-ins during class. First, she plans lessons that involve her students in independent work or group work during the few days where she is returning papers and conferencing. This frees her up to do check-ins, since she’s not doing direct instruction. Second, she mentions that the meetings do not have to last more than a few minutes per student. I’m not sure if Kristy was working with 45-minute class periods or a longer amount of time, but I hope these strategies will help you develop a structure that works for you and your students!

  48. Krupa Vyas says:

    This blog was really helpful. It was amazing. I am doing a similar thing, but it is done orally. Usually I am not able to spare a one to one reflection scope for my students. But this approach has given me a new outlook. I will definitely love to try this method with my students.

    • Margaret Harris-Shoates says:

      Thanks for commenting, Krupa! Jenn will be glad to know that this post gave you a new outlook.

  49. Charlie says:

    Woah, so glad I just found this! Your way of detailing the steps of your individual conferences is Gold!

    • Andrea Castellano says:

      Hi Charlie,

      It’s so great to hear that you found this helpful! Thanks for sharing.

  50. Jyoti Sahni says:

    Hi The blog was useful. Thanks.

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