“But that’s hard!” the student told me. He looked like I’d just asked him to write a four hundred page essay on the social-political ramifications of introducing the sandwich meat “Spam” to third world countries.
But that wasn’t the assignment.
What was it?
I assigned the students to read another student’s short story and find three things they liked about it—and why. The one thing they could not do is to point out anything they didn’t like, thought could be better, or was “wrong.”
Why would I give such an assignment? Simple. I discovered that when asking students to critique their peers’ work that these critiques were filled primarily with pointing out errors like spelling, grammar, and plot issues. What were sorely missing were positive comments.
To the student that complained the assignment was “hard”, I responded, “Why do you think it’s hard?”
He thought about it a moment and responded, “Maybe because the majority of the feedback we get from teachers is what we got wrong on a test, and not what we got right.”
This leads me to wonder, just what are we teaching our students and our children when the main focus of our feedback is what they are doing wrong?