Three Key Principles
Beyond providing a world-class tool to help you generate fantastic narratives, we
want to share knowledge to help to process flow as smoothly as possible.
Teachers always put a good deal of time and effort into composing written feedback. Whether your narrative fills an entire page or is just a single paragraph, there are a few critical factors for any well-written comment: structure, evidence and tact.
Because teachers have different class loads and some schools have different reporting requirements, it's difficult to advocate a one-size-fits-all approach for paragraph structure or length. But we've seen some teachers combine everything into a single 20-sentence paragraph. Extremely long paragraphs can often be visually intimidating. Teachers can ensure better clarity and logical progression with separate shorter paragraphs. It's also difficult locating a specific passage without having to re-read the entire narrative from start to end. So each paragraph should be limited to a single idea with the train of thought flowing from general to specific.
When space or time is limited, teachers might be tempted to rely heavily on evaluation sentences or next steps, overlooking evidence that undergird both. Whenever possible, the teacher should present supporting details that describe patterns of thought or behavior. Providing this evidence helps students better understand which actions should be repeated or changed moving forward. Presenting objective evidence can also protect the teacher from unreasonable criticism from the student or parent. Grant Wiggins, a renowned expert on feedback touches on issues arising from a lack of evidence:
Many feedback situations lead to arguments because the
givers are insufficiently descriptive; they jump to an inference
from the data instead of simply presenting the data.
"Seven Keys To Effective Feedback" (ASCD)
Although listed last, this principle is no less important as tact enables the teacher and school to maintain good ongoing relationships with students and parents. For struggling students, frontload the narrative with several positive aspects of learning and personal development. Conversely, starting with bleaker aspects, students and parents tend to raise their emotional shields, which may prevent them accepting constructive criticism even if perfectly on point. It's easier for recipients to accept constructive criticism when they feel the giver is impartial. Also refrain from using negative words such as: can't, isn't, never, unable, won't, etc. Even the word "always" followed by a negative phrase suggests the student is incapable of improving. Last, if working with a particular a student has been difficult throughout the grading period, teachers should avoid insensitive or derogatory comments. Doing so often results in attention being drawn to the teacher’s pettiness rather than student behavior and performance.