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Revamping the Praise Phrase

A slight shift in two key elements of feedback can make a world of difference.

By Lani Aquino

A huge part of teaching and helping students grow as learners comes from feedback. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the construction of said feedback should be fresh and focused. When it comes to expanding students’ learning potentials, a stamped phrase of Good Work! or Nice Job! simply won’t suffice.

Starr Sackstein shares two powerful ways to enhance feedback in Education Week’s PSA: When Giving Feedback, Don’t Lead with ‘I Love’ or ‘I Like’. As a veteran teacher, she discusses the value in doing some rethinking when it comes to how educators phrase feedback. While many have moved beyond the canned phrasing that often donned papers and left students wondering where the Good Work! was found, there is still more that can be revamped when it comes to sharing meaningful feedback.

Remove the Emotional Element

As the article title suggests, pulling that I love or I like phrasing from the beginning of feedback is a necessary first step. When a teacher leads with either of these, she has suddenly placed the focus on her emotions and not the student’s work. This doesn’t mean that teachers should be emotionless and robotic in their craft, but they should place their focus on the skills being developed.

In working with students, a teacher’s goal shouldn’t be to create a classroom of learners that cater their learning to teacher preferences, but rather a class of learners that understand their own learning and how to improve it. Do love and like need to be completely removed from feedback vocabulary? Absolutely not. Should they be the main focus or canned starters? Absolutely not. More structured and skill-focused feedback should be the norm though.

Instead of stating I love your introduction., a teacher could state The introduction gives the reader just enough detail and suspense to be drawn into the rest of the story. This subtle change puts the focus on the use of detail and creation of suspense; the skills being used not the teacher’s emotional response to them are highlighted. These become elements a student can reference in moving forward and crafting future introductions.

Focus on Specific Skills

Unless there is a pinpoint, students are left to their own devices to determine what was or wasn’t developed well within their work. On the other hand, if every single component is given a comment or edit, the end result can be too overwhelming to process. This can be especially true when it comes to writing conventions.

If a comma rule is being repeatedly ignored or misused, a comment with a short explanation of the rule and the notice of its lacking or misapplication would be best. Teachers need to focus more on helping students see how their work can be improved, not using a red pen or a comment button to do the work for them. As with the introduction scenario above, a paper that requires attention in a particular area should not have a revision offered but rather a guideline(s) for adding more depth or detail.

As with any feedback, it’s about guiding students to improve. If students become reliant on feedback to move forward and grow, then they will have difficulty becoming self-sufficient when it comes to formulating future assignments. By shifting feedback methods, students are able to take ownership of their learning and skill development to become more successful and self-assured as they continue to navigate their own learning journeys.

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