I was awful at giving feedback as a teacher. I was the king of vague “great job” compliments (here’s why you should avoid that phrase). The problem is: what the heck do you say when it really was a “great job?” There’s nothing to really correct. It exceeded expectations. How do we avoid saying, “Another perfect project from Timmy!” (Which sets up all kinds of weird expectations.)
Ask Some Questions!
Begin by learning more about the student’s thoughts about their own work:
- What part did you enjoy the most?
- What was the hardest part for you?
- What part are you most proud of?
- What did you spend the longest on?
- What part were you most worried about?
These set up some nice probing questions to follow up with:
- Oh really? Why do you say that?
- I see. What do you think caused that?
- Is that true for you a lot of the time?
- Do you think most people agree with that or disagree?
- When did you start thinking that?
And you can gently pop your opinion in:
- Oh, that makes sense now. I see that you were trying to explain that, but the wording wasn’t quite right. You might try…
- I could tell that was probably your favorite part – your excitement came through in your writing!
- I really liked that part also. I had never seen someone do it like that.
De-Stress Them First
Some students will squirm when they have to sit down and chat about their work. They’re probably thinking: “OMG. What did I do wrong? Why doesn’t she get to the point? What’s my grade?” Tackle it head on:
Hey [stressed out perfect student]! We’re going to talk a bit about your paper, but don’t worry… nothing’s wrong! I haven’t even graded it yet. I want to know your thoughts first.
Will this take some time? Yes, but do it while the others are working on something. Make the time. The information you’ll gather will be so worth it, plus you’re helping these kids get used to chatting with authority.