Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Sandwich Technique

At the community college where I work, we are instructed to give feedback to students via the sandwich technique. That is, sandwich your negative feedback in between comments on what the student did well.

To me this seems a little silly, and overprotective of egos, but a lot of my students have never been told they did anything well, ever, and so I do get that positive reinforcement may motivate them. However, I fear that they may just skip over the bad and keep only the good.

And sometimes, I can't think of two nice things to say. When a student has failed on every level of the assignment, how do I proceed? "You spelled your name right, nice work! You did not follow assignment directions, misunderstood the fundamental point of the assignment, clearly did not do the readings, and did not use terms correctly. You also didn't cite your sources or meet the minimum word count. However, you did turn this assignment in only two days late! Great improvement!"

How do you even grade a student who turns in a paper containing this sentence:

Even though, they are target at black, helping improve legal, social, and economics of the blacks, but they help all cultural.*

This is a native English speaker with at least a G.E.D.

My comments to this student began: "your assignment concerns me."

*paraphrased as best I could

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes I find it helps to put a negative in a positive way. For instance, instead of saying, "You did not do the readings," you would say, "The assignments are much easier if you do the reading." This gives some direction without assigning blame. As you suspected, praising someone for something trivial will not help them improve, however, tearing down every sentence will not help either. It will provide some limits to your comments if you look closely at what your objectives were for the assignment. Then emphasize those objectives and concentrate your comments on those areas. Hopefully, you can find at least one positive example within the parameters of your objectives.

    Frankly, the sentence example you provide suggests that the student was either extremely tired when writing the example or they had been partying and suddenly remembered that they had to do an assignment. If you have other less formal writing examples, such as discussions or chats on a topic, you'll get a another idea of the student's writing ability and thought process.

    You are probably doing these things already but sometimes it helps to think about the whole grading process again.