Another dot in the blogosphere?

Feedback on feedback

Posted on: March 11, 2019

Today I reflect on a section in a written assignment in which my students respond to feedback about improving their work.

One student did not appreciate that I was pointing out only areas of improvement. What I saw as constructive feedback seemed to be viewed by that student as negative and lacking encouragement.

I am all for providing encouragement and acknowledging good work. But I give it only when it is deserving and warranted.

It should be obvious when something is deserves a positive comment. In the context of the assignment, this might be when a student clearly describes a good idea or skilfully outlines a meaningful strategy.

However, it might not be as clear when such feedback is warranted. I only provide it when I think is does not lead a learner to be complacent, i.e., the idea is good enough and does not need improvement.
 

 
I do not encourage for encouragement’s sake. If a student is doing the equivalent of driving towards the end of a cliff, I do not compliment them on how well they drive in a straight line. I tell them to change tactic or course.

It might be easy to label students who depend on positive feedback as snowflakes. I do not. They are products of nurturing. If their teachers before me were only positive and did not occasionally use tough love, they will find what I do unnerving.

But they must learn that life does not operate that way. If I am the first to provide a concrete experience and point this out, then so be it. I will be cruel in order to be kind.

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