After giving your students an assessment, at some point you will need to provide them with feedback on how they did.

If you’re not careful, the manner in which you give students feedback can be dramatic and debilitating.  Here are some tips for framing your feedback in a positive, constructive way.

  • Establish the shared goal.  Before giving feedback to your class, it’s important to establish the goal both you and the students share.  That goal, at least on a micro level, might be mastery of the standards and objectives being assessed.  Establishing this and reminding students of this before providing them feedback on an assessment helps your feedback seem less personal and more progressive.  Your feedback should be framed more like, “Now we know what we need to work on to reach our goal.”  Rather than, “Now we know what you’re not good at.”  I hope this is somewhat obvious.
  • Start positive.  One way to make sure your feedback isn’t perceived by your students as negative or defamatory is by starting with something positive.  “I noticed on your test that you did a GREAT job doing X.  However as you can see, we now know we need to improve at Y.”
  • Know your students.  If you know some students react more negatively than others when given constructive feedback, make sure to give those students feedback in an even more positive, careful and private fashion.
  • Have conversations with your class about “failure” and “improving.”  This is especially important for younger students.  Before giving an assessment, and definitely before providing feedback on an assessment, talk with your class about how a “bad score” is not vindictive of their worth as a student or a person.  Share stories with your class about people who failed before succeeding – there are millions of these, but you can start with the famous ones.  Like how Michael Jordan didn’t make the high school basketball team the first time he tried out.  Essentially your teaching them that success doesn’t come easy, and that to become great at any thing you will likely need to fail a few times. This is an important lesson students will need to learn not just in order to succeed in your class but to succeed in life.

More reading:  Here is a great resource for how to give your students positive, constructive feedback.