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Tips for Teaching Students to Receive Critical Feedback

It can be agreed that feedback is an essential part of growth and progress.

Whether it's from the immediacy of what we see or from another person who is observing what we do, feedback helps determine future successes.

Although receiving positive feedback is always nice, most learning happens from critical or constructive direction that forces us to see what we haven't done correctly yet and can still stand to improve.

Good critical feedback shouldn't just criticize but should offer suggestions and/or directions that can address the challenges that are being experienced.

It may seem natural to receive this kind of feedback during normal life situations where we learn to self-correct until we reach a level of mastery, getting instructional or strategic feedback in our academic learning process can often be a challenge.

Given our relative sensitivity to hearing things aren't right, students need to learn to hear feedback in a meaningful way that doesn't just put them on the defensive, but rather keeps them open to moving forward and becoming a better learner.

Here are some tips for improving how students hear and understand critical feedback:

  • Make sure to know your learners well, so you understand how they best hear information. Some students will prefer written feedback, others may prefer a one on one conference. Some may take it better in a small group. Some students may also opt for spoken feedback used via technology with apps like Voxer.

  • Direct is always best, but it is good to make sure that you say something constructive and positive together.

  • Always frame feedback in a positive way even especially when it is constructive. For example, "your introductory paragraph will be greatly improved if you incorporate more context before transitioning into your thesis statement. You can do this considering the larger, more general idea that will engage the reader."

  • Always make sure to provide some strategy for correcting or improving the challenge instead of just pointing out what isn't correct.

  • If the student is making the same error persistently, do not keep pointing it out. Point out the first couple of times and then instruct the student to review the whole document to correct it throughout.

  • Try not to overdo it. If there are many challenges with the work, focus on the biggest ones first and allow the student to digest the necessary changes before addressing the less important ones.

  • It's all in the delivery so make sure the students understand you want to help them and you aren't looking to hurt them.

  • Have them practice giving and receiving feedback from each other so that they are accustomed to receiving feedback and see how it can be helpful to their learning.

  • If a student doesn't understand the feedback you've provided, always invite a dialogue, this will encourage them to ask for clarification if they need it and will promote future growth.

Remember that giving and receiving feedback is a necessary life skill if we hope to help create productive members of society. Allowing students the time to emotionally adjust to receiving feedback may be helpful for kids who aren't used to hearing something critical. Each one of these situations is an opportunity for you and the student to grow together.

How can you ensure that students hear the constructive feedback in the positive spirit it is meant in? Please share

*This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog in March of 2016.


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