Criticism may sound like something negative but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can be very beneficial, if it’s done in the right way. It helps students to learn from their mistakes and motivates them to improve their skills and expand their knowledge. But the question is how to criticize effectively? We prepared some tips on how to give a constructive feedback:
1. Criticize behavior, not person
Has it ever occurred to you that you gave critique with the best intention but it wasn’t received well? Often, especially when filled with emotion, people tend to criticize others on a personal level instead of criticizing their behavior in a particular situation. Student, who has been criticized, may have felt he was personally attacked and consequently acted defensively. Imagine you are being told you are boring, just because some of your coworkers didn’t like the way how you teach some topics in the classroom. This kind of critique would only make you feel bad about yourself, but it wouldn’t be very useful. It would be much better if you were told that they didn’t like some of your classes and offered an explanation. In that case you could see where the problem is and do something about it. For the same reason you should be careful and criticize particular behavior of your students. Replace statements like “You are lazy.” or “You are reckless.” with “What you did in that situation was irresponsible.”
2. Be specific, focus on the situation
Another important thing, when giving critiques, is to be specific. If you tell your student that he got a low grade because you didn’t like his essay or you thought his essay was really bad, it won’t be much of a help to him. Be more specific and offer him a critique like: “I had to give you lower grade because you focused on a wrong topic. You should have written about characters in the book, but you wrote your whole essay about the plot. It might be better if next time you write a concept of your essay before you start writing. I could help you stick to the rules and keep in mind what is the purpose of the essay.” Make sure your critiques are not general, but as specific as possible. Avoid statements like: “You are always late”, “This is just not your thing” or “You never listen to instructions when I tell them.” Focus on the situation and break it down to some specific key points.
3. Try the “Sandwich method”
When dealing with students who are less confident or feel insecure, it could be even harder to give critique. You don’t want to hurt their feelings but you still should somehow tell them where they performed poorly or behaved inappropriately. That’s where the sandwich technique comes in:
At first, provide a positive feedback. Give them a compliment on something they did well recently, tell them you appreciate their effort.
Provide a critique. Make sure you criticize specific situation or behavior.
End it with a compliment.
When using the sandwich method, be honest and make sure your critique is not misunderstood. Critique, in combination with compliment, usually motivates people to improve their performance, which is why it’s beneficial to use this method also with students who are not necessarily insecure or unconfident.
4. Give recommendation on how to improve
To encourage your students to improve their work, help them find out what they can do about it. Ask them what do they think and then point them into the right direction. Again, when giving suggestions, be specific. Giving recommendation after critique is what makes your feedback constructive. With doing so, you clearly reveal your expectations and show them how to reach them.
Although it might not be easy to criticize your students or coworkers, critiques could be very beneficial. Just make sure you do it right!
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