It is marking season. I don’t have a lot of time to blog because I have a lot of literature reviews to mark. Marking literature reviews is time-consuming but enjoyable.

I am behind schedule and have not been meeting my daily goals because I underestimated how long they would take to grade (on average 2 hours each). I decided to blog today anyways because this tip is very important for me to follow myself right now.

Stay Positive

When I grade I start with the assumption that students deserve 100% and deduct marks for errors that I catch. I am not sure if that is why it is easier to make comments that point out mistakes or if it is just my human nature, but I find it much easier to point out negatives than positives. Here is the thing – pointing out the positives is actually a more effective way of promoting student growth.

Tell the students what they did well. I have talked a lot this term about the need to engage in appreciative inquiry and be constructive when giving students feedback. It has been working. My students respond well to being told why they are awesome. They respond by building on that and being even more awesome.

Oreo Technique

Of course, I need to also point out mistakes. The oreo technique works well. The oreo techniques was taught to me by a student – say something good, then point out a mistake, then say something else good. I also find it helpful to blame me instead of them. Here are a couple of examples:

You have almost all the required components in this section – good work. I still need some convincing that this is a topic that will improve client care. By improving the initial paragraph you can hook/convince me that this is worth examining. Well done overall.

Instead of saying they didn’t establish significance I say that I need convincing.

You picked some really nice studies. Good work. Your tabling is fantastic. Just pay close attention that the findings you extract answer your question. You asked about the meaning of discrimination (not if the nurses experienced it). There were a couple of omissions but you really seem to know what you are doing.

This is the oreo technique in action.

This paragraph makes a lot of sense but I am not sure where the problem statement is. I like the thought that went into looking for problems with the literature.

Instead of saying they didn’t include a problem statement I am saying I couldn’t find it. It points out the issue in a nicer way than simply saying what was missing.

If they make the same mistake over and over I point it out once in the paper then comment on it in the overall feedback. There is no need to point out every time they forgot to use et al. (for example).

The tables are exceptionally well done. Generally speaking, the sampling frame needs to be reviewed for next term to make sure you have paraphrased and synthesized them in a concise but accurate way. Criteria like being cognitively competent are important for this study. See the word document for additional information. I think your excellent work this term has helped to set the groundwork for your continued success next semester.

Don’t Forget

I have been told to comment less on papers in order to speed up my marking. Here is the challenge – students need the feedback to improve, especially on a paper like this that they rewrite next term. When I get into the position that I am in now – a time crunch – it is hard to stay focused on making positive comments. Simply pointing out mistakes may be faster, but being constructive is better for the students. Now that I have reminded myself how important it is to remain positive I am going to get back to it!

Good Job Bitmoji on an Oreo
Good Job Bitmoji on an Oreo. Oreo Image by WikimediaImages from Pixabay


Laura Killam is an experienced nursing educator from Northern Ontario with a keen interest in improving student learning through innovation. For more information please visit


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.