Sometimes the latest educational trends sound good in theory but oftentimes tend to be less than fruitful in reality. After thoroughly marking ninety assignments and including lots of suggestions, positive reinforcement and constructive criticism, I couldn’t help wondering if the writer’s cramp was really worth it. Were these kids really going to follow the advice so painstakingly offered? For that matter, were they even going to take the time to read what was written or were they just going to zero in on the mark and disregard everything else? I decided to candidly ask one of my grade 8 classes some pointed questions. They were more than happy to participate in an official “study group” and this is what they had to say on the subject.
“Do you read the comments your teachers provide or do you just look at the mark and disregard them? “ It’s true, the mark is what they look at first but all of them take the time to thoroughly read any feedback.
“Do you try to follow through with the suggested advice?”  Most said yes but there were a handful (and you know who they are) who stated that realistically, if it required a lot of effort (example – to redo something entirely), they would not.
What form of descriptive feedback do you feel is the most valulable?”
This question kind of depended on the type of student they were. The ones who tended to be self-motivated and driven were able to take written feedback, internalize it and apply it. In all cases, students really found that a one on one meeting (however brief) where they had a private moment with the teacher was the most valuable. The verbal feedback provided them an opportunity to better absorb and ultimately respond to advice/suggestions instead of reacting defensively to critiques.
In sum, is the time and writer’s cramp worth it? Yes, it is above all, an opportunity to engage and connect with your students which does not go unrecognized.


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