Learning from essay feedback and experience

While you’re on the come-down from your essay deadline induced stress and euphoria, take some time to think about your experience of completing that piece of work and what you can learn from it. Did the research take longer than you expected? Could any of the stages be made more efficient by investing in an app or other piece of useful technology? Do you need to find a new way of working to help you focus?

Also take a look at how much time you allocated for research, planning, writing and editing. Did it feel about right? Or do you need to adjust what you do next time?

Hopefully, you won’t have to wait more than a few weeks to get our marked essay back. When you do, take plenty of time to carefully read through the feedback. If there are negative comments, don’t take them personally. The marker isn’t finding fault for the sake of it – they want you to learn and do better next time. If you disagree with a comment, don’t immediately dismiss it; the person marking your work has read hundreds – if not thousands – of essays and is an expert in their field. Try and take the feedback on board for next time – especially if you know this person will mark your work again – they will mark you down for the same reasons next time! If you don’t understand any aspects of the feedback, ask the person who wrote it to clarify. Keep a record of your feedback so you can spot reoccurring problems and get support if you need it.

Feel free to compare your work with your classmates, but don’t get hung up on who scored what. If a particular person gives everyone low grades, don’t be tempted to dismiss every comment as unfair – there will be a lot you can learn in these cases!

Don’t panic if you didn’t get the mark you were hoping for. Each piece of work will only count towards a tiny proportion of your final grade, so as long as you are always improving, you’ll be fine. Take advantage of any academic and pastoral support that is available to you if you feel you need it. Remember: if university was easy, everyone would write their final thesis in their first semester and graduate at Christmas!

You might instead find yourself in the happy position that you’ve passed the assignment with flying colours and there wasn’t a single negative comment on the whole paper. This can be a surprisingly frustrating situation, because in all likelihood you’ve been docked some marks somewhere but have no idea why. Go and chat to your lecturer and make it clear that you’re aiming for the stratosphere and you want some constructive feedback to help you get there.

If you find the prospect of feedback daunting, try to think about it from the opposite perspective: when you go off into the world of work, in all likelihood, you won’t get the opportunity to get this level of regular constructive feedback on your work from an expert ever again. A lot of employers will only tell you when you get something wrong, and very few will give you the praise you deserve when you smash it out of the park. This means you’ll have to learn to assess your own progress – so make the most of feedback while it’s there!

What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve received on your work? Let me know in the comments!

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