Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Purpose of Positive Feedback

Hat tip Corie Rosen and Paula Manning for the following post.

Law school professors are always afraid that if they don't mark everything that is wrong on student work, the student will think that incorrect parts of their paper are correct, and repeat mistakes. However, there is only so much one person can absorb from reading comments on one assignment, and most teachers who give feedback provide too much negative commentary on student work.

Take a few minutes to think back to your time as a student, mentally reviewing your exams after you finished you recall everything that you did right? Or do you recall everything you believed you missed? People are hardwired to think about everything they did wrong. Few people think about the things they did right.

There are two ways to think about exam feedback...trying to focus students on what they did right so they can maximize their strengths, or focusing on what they did wrong. Students already focus on what they did wrong, already feel beat up by the law school process, and many feel demoralized by law school in general. By reframing feedback as a tool to maximize students strengths, with a 3-1 ratio of positive to negative comments, you can help students feel better about their work.  A student who feels good about law school and positive about their ability to succeed will spend more time on their assignments than a student who feels like they have so many errors they don't know where to begin. You may find that students who receive positive and negative feedback in the 3-1 ratio actually find their own mistakes, because they are motivated to do their best, instead of focusing on avoiding a bad grade. (RCF)

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