One obvious way to make them use the feedback is to have them redo the assignment, but we all know the HUGE problem with that option -- it takes too much time. So how can we give feedback that gets used without spending every waking hour grading?
1. Require students to keep a feedback log.
Get them to record "skills to work on" every time you give them feedback. Then, the next time they do an assignment, ask them to highlight an area that demonstrates where they attempted to improve.
2. Ask for a feedback reflection after you return a graded assignment.
When you return an assignment, ask students to read your feedback at home that night and then write a reflection on what they need to do to improve. Ask them to hand it in the next day.
3. Find time to conference during the process.
I can't say enough about the importance of conferencing with students. It helps them learn, and it makes your grading easier. Conferences don't have to be long and should focus on one specific skill: "Katie, last time you had trouble with transitions. Can you show me where you used one in this assignment?" Katie can quickly show you where she used one effectively -- or not. If she still hasn't figured it out, you can do a quick, on-the-spot, just-in-time lesson with her. (I've written in more detail about conferencing in this post.)
4. Don't give written feedback on the assignment.
Instead, highlight areas that are done well in one colour, and areas that need work in another (you could also use straight lines and squiggly lines). Give the assignment back to the students and have them tell you either verbally, or in writing. why each area was highlighted.
5. Don't give them a grade until you have done one of the above.
Unfortunately, our students are often only concerned with that grade at the top of the assignment. Once they see it, many don't even read the feedback. Make sure you record the grade, but only put feedback (or highlighting) on the assignment. Then, only after you get a reflection or do a conference, give the student the mark.
In order to use these strategies, you need to carve our more time during your classes. One way to do this is to assign and grade fewer assignments. Yes. I mean it. That doesn't mean that you're slacking off or that the kids are getting an easier course. It's quite the opposite, really. If you put more emphasis on skills attainment rather than on the number of assessments, then students might have fewer things to do, but they are more accountable for mastering skills. Quality trumps quantity every single time.
What about you? Do you have any tried and true tips for getting the kids to use your feedback? If you do, please share in the comments!