Friday, 11 December 2009
Give Praise Where Appraisal is Due
As the year goes on and we come to an assessment and performance heavy time of year such as this one, more often than not I can be found talking to students, appeasing and comforting them whilst imparting what little wisdom I have so that they can continue to work, grow and develop - cultivating a little plot of knowledge all of their very own.
But giving 'feedback' (appraisal after the event) can be more tricky. In fact 'feedback' in itself is an odd word. At least odd enough to be taken apart and analysed with a dictionary in hand in a slightly anal fashion;
'feed' meaning 'to give food to; supply with nourishment: to feed a child'
'back' meaning 'the return of posession: to give back'
In short, 'feedback' means to give nourishment back to the original owner of a piece of work. To give them your views, feelings and comments so that the participants may take them and literally 'grow'. Following this there may even be a a following process of appraisal where views can be exchanged and learnt from for much longer periods of time, until conclusions are reached, work 'runs out of steam', or owners don't need the guidance anymore.
Recently, through the appraisal and giving of feedback on students work I have been looking for where I fit in this circle of commenting and responding to students work. Wondering if it's enough to just say what I actually think or should I change what I want to say so as not to offend or annoy. Since beginning my role here at St Mary's this has been the hardest part of my learning so far.
It's not good enough to relate it to my own experiences, not that I was an extremely good/bad/indifferent student myself, but it's not fair to judge others purely by my own standards.
What I have found is that whatever feedback I give, and in whatever form the important thing is that the students are nourisjed. They can develop from what is said, learn from it and grow. In giving feedback I have no alterior motives, I want nothing in return; only to see the students thrive. I am doing no favours to a students learning if I tell lies, tell them how much I enjoyed something when I didn't, say I saw learning and Dramatic theory when there wasn't any (particularly in Drama where they will recieve harsh criticism/appraisial over many things). But I also have to strike a balance between that and letting students make mistakes in a comfotable and 'safe' environment - making 'feedback' constructive.
What happens from that feedback then becomes the interest of the student. How they react and respond can say a lot about the type of student they are and what they want to achieve.