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Helpfulness Ratings You Can Trust

In Eli Review, writers can rate the feedback they received based on how helpful they found it. Helpfulness ratings allow writers to show reviewers the extent to which a comment will help them revise. Writers see reviewers’ comments (with a link to the contextual location in the draft where the reviewer left that comment).

Like Amazon’s rating system, helpfulness ratings quantify writers’ satisfaction with reviewers’ feedback. It provides a quantitative snapshot of how helpful reviewers’ comments are. They also tells instructors how satisfied writers are with peer learning. Like all reputation systems, helpfulness ratings are most useful when participants share common expectations for high and low scores.

In our student resource Feedback and Improvement and in a video, we explain helpful feedback in three key moves. Helpful feedback

  1. describes what the reviewer sees in the draft,
  2. evaluates that passage in light of the criteria, and
  3. suggests a specific improvement.

This pattern helps reviewers compose comments that give writers what they need to revise.

By flipping that pattern, writers can determine how helpful the comment is. Writers can ask:

  • “Does this comment help me understand my writing any better?”
  • “Does this comment help me to measure my progress toward the assignment goals?”
  • “Does this comment offer any specific advice that I can follow when I revise?”

With their answers in mind, writers can rate the comment on a five star scale.

Rate each comment on a scale of 1-5 based on how well it meets our helpfulness criteria: remember that a helpful comment clearly names what the writer has done, is specific with regard to the goals of the writing, speaks to quality of the writing, and is respectful in tone.

  • The comment exhibits none of the helpfulness criteria.
  • The comment exhibits few of the helpfulness criteria.
  • The comment exhibits some of the helpfulness criteria.
  • The comment exhibits most of the helpfulness criteria.
  • The comment exhibits all of the helpfulness criteria.

These questions and ratings are also useful when discussing exemplary or unhelpful comments with the class. By re-using the describe-evaluate-suggest heuristic and by talking about the helpfulness rating scale explicitly in class, instructors reinforce the kinds of thinking that lead to better revisions.

Learn more about teaching with helpfulness ratings from

Cover photo credit: San José Library

Helpfulness Ratings You Can Trust was published to the Eli Review Blog in the category Pedagogy.

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