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The Red Ink Myth

The Red Ink Myth

Juila G. Thompson | Teaching

Mistakes to Avoid

Feedback can take several forms. It can be oral or written, informal or formal, and can offer formative assessments as well as summative assessments. No matter which form you employ at any given moment, giving appropriate feedback is a delicate and complex task that requires planning and diplomacy if it is to be successful. Some of the most common mistakes that teachers make in giving feedback are ones that can be easily avoided with just a bit of forethought.

•Make sure that what you have to say is specific. Telling a child “Good job!” is a pleasant compliment and offers praise, but is not specific enough so that students know what they’ve done that’s correct. Make a point of giving feedback that is specific rather than vague.

•Don’t forget that every comment that you make has a positive or negative effect on your relationship with your students. Students pay attention to what you say to their classmates as well as to themselves. Be careful that what you say will have a positive effect.

•Don’t just edit a student’s paper. Ask questions that will enable students to self-correct. In order to be useful, students should be able to correct or prevent mistakes by paying attention to your feedback questions and comments.

•Don’t forget to offer strategies for improvement. Just pointing out what went wrong may be helpful, but showing students how to improve sets a positive tone that allows learning to happen.

•Try to avoid being subjective when you can. Telling students, “I don’t like it when you…” or “This is ridiculous!” only states your opinion. Instead, telling students, “Your capital letters are extremely neat and well-shaped” takes the personal factor out of the comment while putting the focus on the student’s work and not on an adult opinion. Offer facts instead of your opinions as often as possible.

•Don’t overwhelm students with too many comments at once. Although your comments have to support the grade decision when you are grading a final effort on an assignment in a summative evaluation, in general, flooding a paper with corrections of every minor mistake will not help students improve. Select a few errors as a focus and deal with those specific problems in depth.

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•Don’t forget to include positive comments. Students benefit from knowing what they did right as well as what they did wrong.

•Don’t neglect to proofread what you say. In the rush to grade papers, many teachers don’t take the time to look over their comments. Check for errors in syntax as well as tactfulness after you have gone over a stack of papers. Ask yourself how you would react to those comments. How will the student? How will the students’ parents or guardians?

•Don’t take too long to return papers with constructive feedback. Although every teacher at every grade level feels overwhelmed at times by the onerous task of grading papers, it is important for students to get that information from you quickly so that they can apply it to what they already have learned.

Continue reading on the next page: “Formative Feedback Strategies”


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