Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Critique, C'est Chic

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Critique, C'est Chic

Article excerpt

Feedback. It's the new black on the educational catwalk. Like legions of other teachers, I've abandoned last season's comfort-fit targets and started lacing my students into leaner, meaner corsets in my efforts to raise their grades. No longer are their books full of plush praise and loose-fitting adjectives. "Delightful", "lovely" and "convincing" have been replaced with haute couture instructions, involving buttoned-down assessment objectives and an exhortation to redraft.

The redrafting process is great because a) students improve their grades by revising previous work, and b) even the most inept school inspector can't miss the forensic trail of progression that a redraft leaves behind. Particularly if you foghorn it by getting the children to write "MY HOMEWORK REDRAFT" on the front in humongous letters.

Students respond well to feedback. You tell them what they can do to improve and they take it on the chin. However candid your criticism - and I've let some stingers go in my time - they rarely let wounded egos get in the way of their learning. The same is not true of adults. In my experience, our ability to accept criticism wanes at much the same time as our eyesight. It's as if we have a finite capacity for self-improvement. You start nearing the brim at 40 and by 50 you've reached saturation point, so that any new advice poured in your ear comes straight out and down your leg. And just as we stop taking advice, we start dishing it out in spades.

My husband and I, for example, spend a great deal of time pointing out each other's vast inadequacies. …

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