Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Importance of Criticism

I've blogged before about the importance of compliments. I also feel the need to take a stance on the importance of criticism.

I attended a class yesterday where we were talking about grading student work. The large majority of my fellow students expressed the opinion that we should not give out "bad" grades, because it discourages the students from success, and we should take into account the "effort" of the students, who tried so hard, but failed miserably.

Now, I am probably too much of a hard nose, but I was not going to let this whole discussion proceed without my imput. I expressed the opinion that its not fair to the students who really do their best job, and really do-do well, if we give everyone "A"s for effort. I don't feel motivated to do my best effort, if anyone can get an "A", where is my motivation for pushing myself, in that situation?

Thankfully, I was not the only one that expressed similar opinions, although I looked like the overachieving-snob, but others did mention that if we give everyone "A"s and don't give them constructive criticism, how are they going to know what they did wrong, and how will they know where there is need for improvement? Another student said when she gets a "B" she is movitavted to find out why it was only "B" quality and strive for that "A." Another classmate said we are not preparing them for college and the real world if we let them slide by with easy "A"s. This however did not silence the still-majority who said we should give out an abudance of good grades because we don't want to "promote failure."

And to the argument of "we don't give out an A for effort in Math," and then the counter argument "but English is subjective," I think English isn't that subjective. I think obviously to some degree it is, but you can also identify good and bad grammar, solidly researched/supported/founded arguments, clear articulation, and supported thesis.

I think if we do not give constructive criticism, and honest criticism, we are not promoting self-evaluation and improvement.


Scully said...

In my world, rewarding someone for sub-par work is 'promoting failure' not telling them they need to improve. Good teachers are constructive in their criticisms. We learned to write, and write well, in Jr. High, because Mr. Teals was tough. He gave you the grade you earned, showed you where the problem(s) lay and was there to help you learn to correct them. As were most of our English teachers who came after. But we had the foundation because we had someone who graded fairly. In the real sense of the word. Also, by mid-terms, most teachers know what each individual is capable of and where their base ability level is. And that is where the 'effort' theory comes in. What is a C paper for me, could be an A paper for another student who started at a lower base level.

Esperanza said...

I totally agree and I always remember my first paper I turned in to Ms. Paris who said she would give me an A+ for ideas and a C+ for grammer, so she was giving me a "B" and we were going to work on it, and she did help me a lot, that was a important experience for me.

aquamarine said...

Excellent points Esperanza and Scully. I learned the most from those teachers who were fair verses grading on the effort curve only, as well. Both effort and skill should be taken into consideration.

Katie said...

I completely agree! Giving unfair grades for "effort" is promoting failure. Not only that, but it shows you have no belief in the student. It says "This is the best I think you can do." If you give a C and provide a path for improvement, you are showing the student you know they are bright and capable. AND you are preparing them for the future. I doubt a student's future employer is going to accept an ill formulated proposal just because it "shows effort." It doesn't fly in the real world and it shouldn't fly in the schools.

P.S. When you had Mr. Teals did he wear those Shakespeare T-shirts every day during the Shakespeare unit? The ones that he had probably bought 20+ years ago that no longer fit? I loved that man! He was insane!

Sherpa said...

Learning to give and receive constructive criticism is a skill that children need to learn.

Esperanza said...

Yes, Mr. Teals wore awful T-shirts! He was a good teacher, one of the best prob. Also, yes, learning how to give constructive criticism is impt. too, we talked about (in child development) the importance of that and of actually kid's first experiences with arguing, becuase it helps them to realize there are opinions of than their own.

SJ said...

Constructive is the key word here. I work in a field that can get really nit-picky sometimes about things that in reality don't matter to the listener. There's also a subjective element involved. How you say something or what story you run with. A lot of the times it's just a judgment call. But some older people around here feel everyone is entitled to their criticism. It gets on our nerves. I've been here long enough to know which people to avoid asking for an opinion on something.