Creative Commentaries: What Were You Thinking?

Sample Word Template

The basic idea here is to understand what your students were thinking when they complete a piece of work, something that can be useful for a couple of reasons:

Firstly, it can help teachers identify strengths and weaknesses in their students understanding of how they need to construct something like an extended piece of work.

Secondly, and more-specifically, it can help to identify how students understand – or not as the case may be – what they have to do to meet particular assessment objectives.

Although the exercise was originally designed for use with extended pieces of work, such as essays, there’s probably no-reason why you couldn’t use it in the context of practice exam questions of varying length and complexity.

If you find it useful as a tool for understanding your students’ thought processes it might also be helepful to combine it with something like Colour-Coded Assessments.

The Process

The basic idea here is that once a student has completed a piece of work, such as an essay, they then need to go back and write a short commentary outlining their thoughts about why they wrote what they did for each paragraph in their answer. This can be as detailed as they like, although it’s perhaps best to try to encourage them not to write a second essay.

You can give your students hints and pointers to the kinds of things you’re looking for in the Commentary – what assessment objectives they think they’ve used, how successfully did they cover particular points and the like – but it’s probably better if you leave them to their own devices rather than get them to complete a checklist of ideas.

The Commentaries your students provide should give you interesting indications of where they’re going right and wrong in the construction of different types of (exam) answer.


You don’t need to create any specific materials for this exercise, but if you want to give them a bit of initial guidance you could ask them to use this simple Word Template (or create something similar of their own).

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