The language used in giving comments can interfere with student engagement
Students can be adversely affected by inappropriate comments on their work or remarks they judge to be harsh or unfair. The effect is greater when the person making comments is held in high esteem.
The issue is not just one of insensitive comments, but of the kind of vocabulary used. Care needs to be taken in the use of ‘final vocabulary’ -the use of words such as ‘good’, ‘right’, ‘rigorous’, ‘professional standards’. These terms do not allow students to engage with them or allow for other possibilities. The negative or implied negative versions of these terms are even more damaging.
See Boud (1995)
The manner and form of feedback to others is important
Students like to have their work respected and valued even if it doesn’t meet the very highest standards. They have put considerable effort into it (even when it appears they have not), and they want to know that it has been given due consideration.
Giving comments which are timely, use respectful and informative language and take into account what students are expected to do with it should be given high priority.
Large classes and providing comments
When classes are large and have inadequate teaching resources, there are severe limits on how specific such comments can be. Assignment cover sheets with friendly introductions which identify particular issues to give attention to can be used, even when comments come from a standard item bank of remarks.
Some guidelines on Giving and Receiving Feedback applicable to both staff and students can be found here.