17 February 2016
Giving feedback is part of my job as a parent and educator. Saying “this is excellent/ good or bad may sound all right the first time but the receivers will develop immunity against such words over time. I realised through experience that giving feedback which led to genuine improvement is an art. And that’s when I stopped using “excellent/ good/ poor” and moved on the specific constructive feedback.
For example, when I marked my daughter’s assessment books, if her work is error-free, I would write “You did not make mistakes this time. This showed you were careful”. If her handwriting were consistent and legible, it would be “Neat handwriting, it’s a joy to read a clearly written page”. These words meant more to her than “excellent”.
It’s the end of the semester and I was grading the last batch of student journals when I came across this comment. A student had wrote about the quality of my feedback (I quote verbatim):
“One certain point was reminding us what we could have done to better improve our work, and I find that really really useful as we/I wouldn’t have thought about it otherwise. Another point was that you gave really good and accurate analysis for each individuals which helps to improve the individuals.”
While praise is important in our feedback, don’t forget to tell the receiver what worked well or not so well specifically so that they can act on it. This article from Harvard Graduate School of Education sums up my sentiments:
“A teacher’s response to a student’s work can play a leading role in the student’s development as a writer — but to leverage that potential, a teacher needs to understand where and how much to comment, and how to engage the student in the feedback process.”