The Art of Constructive Criticism

Being a teacher is a tough job. Handling kids in the classroom, planning lessons, preparing tests, correcting test papers, attending parent-teacher meetings and teacher conferences while trying to cover the vast syllabus prescribed for the academic year…Phew! Things can become a tad bit overwhelming. 

But apart from the above-mentioned attributes of a teaching job, a teacher is also responsible for the overall academic growth of students. And in order to help a student perform better, a teacher needs to use the tools of feedback and criticism. Criticizing comes easily to most of us, but a majority of teachers fail to come up with constructive criticism often leaving students feeling angry or worthless. Even though you didn’t mean to be harsh, feedback can sound harsh and convey a wrong message if not delivered correctly.  Since the kids and teens are sensitive, badly constructed feedback can have an adverse effect on their behavior.  

Constructive criticism offers a platform to send across your message without hurting the feelings of a student and in turn, helps them improve. Here’s how you can master the art of constructive criticism: 

Don’t make it personal

When you are giving negative feedback, try not to point out the old mistakes of the student as it will make him/her feel miserable. We all have biases and we might not be fond of a certain student, but that bias should not come in the way of constructive criticism. Talk about the issue in hand rather than criticizing the person.   

Mind your tone

When we criticize, we tend to go overboard and pay little attention to the tone of our speech. A sentence can be interpreted differently depending on the tone. Always use a friendly or nonjudgmental tone while conveying a difficult message to a student.   

Who is it for and Why? 

Feedback to a student is not an avenue for teachers to release stress or boost their ego. Don’t let external factors influence your feedback. The idea behind the criticism is to motivate the students to improve.    

Be Specific

Avoid vaguely criticizing the student as it will only make him/her feel victimized. A teacher must specifically point out what the student is doing wrong so that they can focus on correcting it. 

Sandwich Method

When you are critiquing a student’s performance, follow the sandwich method of criticism. According to this method, if you can sandwich a negative comment between two positive comments, then the impact of the negative comment reduces considerably. 

Suggest. Don’t Order. 

Always follow the criticism with suggestions to improve. Do not give orders to a criticized student as he/she might consider it as punishment. Instead, just guide them on how to improve their performance and leave it to the students to either accept or reject your suggestions.     

Every teacher needs to be stern in certain situations, but they should refrain from being hurtful and harsh while giving feedback. Follow these simple rules of constructive criticism and effectively communicate with your students. 


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