Finally, as you are addressing the work with your student, it is your job to offer useful feedback. Remember that it is not the tutor's responsibility to make sure the paper or assignment is perfect. Your job is to help the student further understand key concepts. Therefore, when offering feedback keep these ideas in mind:
- Prioritize the information you discuss. Don't discuss every detail, because that can overwhelm and frustrate a student more than it can help. Focus on key concepts and help the student work through them.
- Try bouncing questions back to the student. Occasionally, it is OK to answer direct questions, but more often, try to encourage students to work through ideas and come up with their own answers. (e.g., "What do you think?")
Tips for offering Constructive Feedback:
- Prioritize areas that would benefit from attention. An effective and logical guideline is one that proceeds from the "global" to the particular. For example, in a writing assignment, there's no point in revising sentence structure, if the organization needs work and sentences may be dropped anyway. For global concerns, we can examine whether the paper fits the criteria for the assignment or is written effectively for the intended audience. We can also discuss how well the content of the paper is developed and if the ideas exhibit unity. We might also look at how those ideas are organized and presented and what type of tone or style the paper uses. After those concerns have been addressed, the mechanics of the paper, such as punctuation and grammar, can be reviewed
- Focus on sharing ideas and information, rather than giving advice. Feedback tends to be more effective when it is two-way. Encourage discussion. Both praise and constructive criticism should be included. If feedback is always negative, then motivation will be low (e.g. "I know when I write, I often get frustrated with introductions because there are so many ways to start. What frustrates you about this intro?")
- Regular and continuous feedback is a major factor in enhancing performance and motivation because it enables individuals to judge more clearly how they are performing against their objectives/targets and other expectations.
- Encourage self-criticism. People are more willing to accept criticism when they have recognized their own strengths and weaknesses. Start by encouraging them to appraise themselves and then build on their own insights (e.g. "What do you feel gives you the most trouble with writing? Where do you feel that algebra loses you?")
- Be helpful rather than critical. Negative feedback can destroy confidence and motivation. Balance out and keep a sense of perspective (e.g. "I really like your attention to description in this paragraph. It draws me in as the reader. Are there other places you could add more of this descriptive detail?")
- Be specific whether you are criticizing or praising. Detailed information is more likely to reinforce what happened than vague statements. Own the feedback. Use "I" statements based on your observation (e.g. "I think your introduction paragraph is solid and well-crafted, but I'm not sure what your point is in this second paragraph. I feel that it is either about X or Y. How do you feel about it?")
- Be selective. Give as much information as they can use. Too many examples or points will dilute the feedback and could lead to complacency or defensiveness.
- Be forward looking. Offer constructive comments that offer alternatives on what could be done differently in the future. Even though it's cliched, remember the old saying: Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime.
- Discuss it. Don't give the feedback and run. Stay to explore the topic in more detail. Have they understood? Do they want to discuss future action plans in more detail? Would they like feedback on other aspects?
- Listen. You can't make any judgments on validity if you have a closed mind. If you are convinced that there is only one way for the student to solve the problem, then you are limiting the options available for revision and/or discovery.
- Suspend judgment. Try not to put your own thoughts in until you take your time and make some mental notes to check out later.
- Let them finish. Don't jump in; wait for the student to finish talking, so you have a full picture.
- Avoid arguing, denying, justifying or minimizing. It's their point of view; decide what you want to do with the information. (see reference 14)