What’s worse than writing a final paper? Writing a final paper and never hearing a word in response.

Often when term papers are assigned as a final exam, professors will not provide students with feedback or an explanation of their grading decision. This practice prevents students from using these assessments to identify strengths and weaknesses in their writing, and it fails to provide the transparency necessary for fairness in grading.

Without feedback, students have no way of knowing what they could have done to improve their papers, depriving them of an opportunity to develop their skills and learn from their mistakes. Final papers regularly demand extensive research, reflection and rewriting from students; in turn, professors should provide conscientious evaluations. It is a tragic contradiction of the educational process for a school year to end without at least a written exchange of ideas between student and professor about a culminating assignment.

Additionally, the absence of communication between students and professors after the submission of final papers obscures the grading process. Paper evaluations are subjective, and it’s commonplace for students to approach professors with objections about their grades during the regular semester. Final papers often determine a substantial portion of students’ course grades, making it particularly important that students have the opportunity to challenge professors’ evaluations. But that is impossible without feedback.

Some professors already offer to mail or email students comments on final papers upon request, but that policy should be required of all teachers. While marking up final papers is undoubtedly a laborious and time-consuming process for professors, it must be required to maximize students’ learning experiences, and that opportunity is wasted unless feedback is relayed to students.

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