Giving constructive feedback is one of the most effective ways to help students grow personally and improve their academic skills. It is a powerful tool, which holds the risk of being double-edged; indeed a feedback that is worded poorly may have the opposite effect and decrease recipients’ self-esteem, it may even demotivate one’s aspiration to learn. That being said, what are the rules to follow, and how can we ensure that the intended feedback has been clearly understood and will contribute to the good development of its recipient? In order to promote a growth mindset among my students, I strictly obey the three rules below:
- First of all, I make sure that my feedbacks are indidualised and confidential. I take the time, outside of school hours, to meet each of my students separately. I consider this a unique opportunity that allows me to have a more personalised relationship with my students. Moreover, such a meeting gives me the chance to individualise my teaching. I consider those times as being privileged, both for me and for my students.
- I always start by saying something In every academic production, even the most catastrophic one, we can find some positive elements. I make sure to highlight this point at the beginning of the discussion. This way of doing establishes a basis for trust and prepares students to hear the less positive but essential elements to improve their performance and foster a growth mindset.
- I do my best to make the distinction between a student and his/her work, and to always give my personal opinion by taking full responsibility for what I say, i.e, by speaking in the first person singular. Here is an example of what I could say: ‘I think you should try to focus more on this aspect of your work in order to develop a more critical view of the phenomenon you present’. And whenever possible, I try to give examples to illustrate my comments.
I encourage my students to seek regular feedback from faculty so as to have support in their personal development and academic development. I am convinced that constructive feedbacks contribute efficiently to a growth mindset, in other words train one’s brain to get smarter according to Columbia psychologist Carol Dweck. Thus, I encourage students to listen carefully to what faculty has to tell, without interrupting but asking for clarification when the message is unclear. I make a point to tell students that feedbacks are nothing more than perceptions that teachers have on their work. Constructive feedback, which is both benevolent and respectful, is a great progression tool to grow mindset and to train brains to get smarter!
‘Non violent communication: a language of compassion’ Marshalll B. Rosenberg (2004)