Feedback is essential for your ESL students’ progress. Students benefit from being praised for their strengths and knowing their weaknesses in order to improve. As teachers, we can sometimes worry about giving feedback, especially when it’s not positive. How will students react? How do I avoid being negative? These are questions we ask ourselves when the time comes to give feedback.
It’s not just the feedback, but also the way it is presented. Giving feedback in a clear and respectful manner can garner respect and motivate students. Here are some tips to help improve the way you give feedback.
Optimism can be contagious. Your students know themselves best, so consider asking for feedback from them at the beginning of a feedback session. Students being honest often identify their own weaknesses and things they can improve on — saving you from doing it. For weaker students, be sure to positively reinforce good points and highlight what and how they can improve. Break down mistakes so that they can see where they went wrong and present ways to correct and improve. Encourage optimism by showing that students are capable of correcting mistakes by using their strengths to improve on their weaknesses.
For your 100 percenters, supplement feedback with new language or a language challenge. You don’t want your strong students to get bored, stagnate, or feel unchallenged.
Don’t compare your students
Nothing can be more discouraging for a student than being compared with another. It is a mistake that teachers can find themselves making unintentionally. When you give feedback, make it personal. Remember that each student learns and progresses differently. Chances are, your students don’t like to be made examples of, regardless of the reason. High-performing students may feel that it’s undue pressure and it can kill all motivation for low-performing students. Learning is an individual journey and each student has their own English language learning goals.
Share common mistakes as a class
There are aspects of the English language that will confound even the strongest learners. When the results of your tests, examinations, and assignments have similar mistakes, you should consider addressing the class as a whole. This shows that you consider your students equally, no matter how well they perform in class. It also helps to bring your class together and motivate students to work with each other to improve. As an added benefit, you might identify the natural student leaders in your class. This will help you in future projects and classes.
Setting goals helps students take realistic steps to achieve them. Your students should leave their feedback sessions with something to look forward to and work on. Setting goals during their feedback session, at the beginning of the week, or the start of your course lets students know what they need to prepare for and practice on and how to get there. Set goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely as well as practical and reasonable. Once goals are achieved, encourage students to set new ones. Nothing is more inspiring for your students than achieving a language learning goal.
Get feedback from your students
Whether it’s a tricky grammar rule or pronunciation, there are going to be times when you hit a wall with your students. Instead of getting frustrated, ask your students what isn’t working for them. You may be surprised how honest they can be and how insightful their feedback is. No teacher is perfect and we sometimes need to be told when we aren’t delivering or students aren’t responding well to the way we present material. It can hurt, but your students aren’t trying to hurt your feelings.
Remember that student feedback and evaluation of our teaching may reflect biases and be unreliable. Despite this, student feedback inevitably tells us something valuable about students’ learning experiences.