Updated: Apr 18, 2019
A useful guide for teachers and tutors about giving feedback in the right way.
As tutors, students or even working professionals, we all encounter feedback on a regular basis and use it to refine our knowledge and improve the way in which we work. However, feedback can be tricky to give and painful to receive, so I would like to share a few thoughts on the do’s and don’ts of feedback.
Advice for teachers & tutors on giving feedback to students:
- Be as specific as possible. Yes, that student’s work might be really weak, but just saying it is poor is not going to help. This is typically a case where written feedback would benefit from being accompanied with oral feedback, and potentially a longer conversation with the student. Did they misunderstand the question? Did they run out of time during the test? What could they do differently to make sure they improve next time? This is also true of positive feedback: it’s worth listing a couple of elements that were particularly good in a piece — it’s good for the student’s confidence as well as for gaining awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses.
- Do not make assumptions. This is incidentally also a motto in the TT office! When I started working as a teacher, I realised that when marking papers, I would write things like: “pay more attention to X” or “focus on Y”. I actually meant to implement my previous tip and be helpful by targeting areas for improvement, but what I actually did might give students the impression that I didn’t acknowledge their efforts: maybe they had paid attention to these things, but misunderstood something else and made mistakes as a result… Now, I would just reword this to make sure the areas for improvements are indeed listed, but remove these assumptions.
- Use the sandwich technique. This is actually an interesting one culturally speaking: I grew up in France, where feedback is given quite liberally, to say the least. French people tend to go straight to the point, even at the risk of hurting feelings. In the UK, I feel that the norm is to be much more cautious. In the workplace, I find that direct and no-nonsense feedback might be useful, but when working with younger students it might be good to try and soften the blow, especially when negative feedback can be perceived as discouraging. This is where the “sandwich” technique comes into play. Think of the negative feedback as the piece of ham in a sandwich: it is essential, but tastes better between two slices of bread than on its own. So remember to include some positive feedback before and after you deliver negative feedback!
Advice for students on receiving feedback from teachers & tutors:
- Review feedback carefully. This may sound obvious, but as a teacher I’ve seen many students look at their grades and immediately put their papers away, without even glancing at my comments. It might feel like a chore, especially when you’re disappointed in your result, but reviewing your feedback is what will allow you to improve. It’s also fine to ask questions if you feel you still do not understand what was expected — I’m not encouraging you to challenge your teacher / tutor, but rather to be honest and ask for clarification if needed.
- Remember that you’re not the one being assessed, this piece of work is. This is probably the most essential point to keep in mind, and is what will allow you to take on feedback in a constructive manner — do not take things personally! Remember that this piece of work (and the feedback that came with it) is only a snapshot of what you did at a given point in time, but it doesn’t encompass everything you are able to do, or may be able to do it the future!
Blog Post Crafted by Adeline
Adeline manages the staff on our Admin Team, liaising with tutors, clients and applicants. She is responsible for processing the ID, Qualifications, DBS Check and References for all our newly joining tutors, as well as taking tuition enquiries, matching tutors to clients, and supporting tutors and clients throughout the process of tuition.