Is that the best you can do?

Written on the 3 June 2016

Great job!  Well done!  You need to do lots more!  You haven't answered the question.  This is your best work for the year.  How clever you are!  Great catch.

All these statements are forms of feedback and many will have been used by teachers and parents when communicating with children.  Of what use are they to the learner? Very little I would argue.  They give a quick response to the student, acknowledging they have finished a task, but do they assist them to become a better learner? I don't think so.  To assist the learner, the feedback needs to be bumped up many more levels than these examples.

Quality: adjective  of or having superior quality:
Feedback:   noun    a reaction or response to a particular process or activity:

Feedback in the classroom is a most valuable tool, allowing teachers to individually extend student learning, aimed at each child's specific needs.  If done well, students accept this feedback in a positive manner and look forward to the personal comments, both written and spoken, which allow them to improve.  A teacher will assess the work against the expected responses. Comments will be made on how well the student completed their response. Then comes the most important part of the 'marking' where students are given suggestions on how, next time, their work could be raised to another level.  For me, the most rewarding thing which can happen in a classroom is seeing where a student has taken this feedback on board and you see it then used in a future piece of work.

The use of quality feedback should not just be a classroom tool. Parents have the opportunity to use this at all times of the day for matters related to academic learning, social interactions and just basic life skills.  Praising children for effort is so important for their self-esteem but it is a wasted opportunity if sometimes you do not add the next level. 

Preparing students to accept feedback is also important and the best place for this to happen is in the home.  They should not see it as a criticism, but a part of the learning which is directed to just them, to help just them understand and help just them to improve.  Students who do not embrace feedback deny themselves of the opportunity of raising the standard of their work and therefore subject ratings.

On its most basic level an example of using quality feedback in the home could be related to a set chore they may be completing.

"Love the way you set the table Billy. Thanks heaps.  Next time can I get you to put the knives on with the blade facing inwards."

And the next time.

"Way to go Billy job all done and you also remembered the knife blades. You're a star table setter."

It's simple, brief feedback. It praises the job done and it sets another level for next time. The child is praised for the initial job but then praised again for the improvement.  It is hoped that they learn the feedback is not a criticism but a way to learn new skills.  When this acceptance translates into the classroom, the child is on the way to becoming a truly positive learner.


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