Providing Encouragement and Feedback to Learners

by multilingualmania on August 15, 2009

in Teaching and Learning, Theory

69542427_9e39c451a7I’m excited about the fact that I will be writing a guest post on!! I have somewhat of an idea of what I will be writing about, but I am still in the brainstorming phase today. I am a little nervous about it because I really admire the blog and all of the fabulous writing and articles on the blog. It will be a good thing, because it is forcing (for lack of a better word) me to sit my rear end down and practice writing. It seems to come more naturally with practice, as Ana and Roxana from Spanglishbaby have advised.

I’ve always had a phobia with writing, but I’ve always loved to write. When I was in the second grade I entered into a writing contest and poured my heart and soul into it. I wrote a five page story about an angel and I waited every day to find out who the winner would be. I never received any feedback from my teacher about the story that was so near and dear to my heart and it crushed me. I’ve always remembered this as a teacher–students who entered my classrooms always perceived that they didn’t write well and I did everything I could to try to encourage them. I rarely met a student who felt confident about their writing.

When I got into high school, I entered a writing contest in Spanish and won. One day, they announced that I won first place on the loudspeaker and I was made fun of for an entire week. That was the day that I decided to make my writing a personal act and didn’t let anyone else see it.

Throughout middle school and high school I held a phobia about writing and I have always wanted feedback from teachers about my writing ability. I yearned for some sort of confirmation because I carried around a feeling that I didn’t write very well. Every time that I would receive my writing assignment back from a teacher I would run straight to my desk, flip through the pages and look eagerly for constructive feedback. I rarely received anything more than a grade and a few comments.

I’ve often wondered if it might have been because I was somewhat of a decent writer and teachers didn’t feel that they needed to provide any feedback. Or maybe it was because the teachers also didn’t perceive of themselves as effective writers, so they lacked the capacity to provide constructive feedback. As a teacher educator, teachers have often told me in staff development sessions that they don’t know how to write well, have not had enough exposure to writing in the school setting, or have never been taught how to teach writing.

Not much changed when I was at the university level. I was accused twice of not writing my own papers, once by an English teacher and a second time by a Spanish teacher. I actually had to sit down in front of them and write something in order to prove that I was the person who had written my assignments. I suppose that I could have inferred that they thought that my written assignments were of decent quality, but I didn’t.

I carried around the idea that I was a horrible writer through my teaching credential program and my masters program. When I was in the doctoral program I would take my writing to my previous professor that I had in the masters program. In my second year of doctoral studies, she told me one day, “I don’t know why you think that you can’t write well. Your papers have been kicking ass and you should try to publish them”. (Pardon my language, but I’m trying to be accurate here). It was then that I began to feel a little more confidence about writing and decided to start blogging.

Last year, I went to a management conference that had a speaker with a similar story to mine. The key note speaker was a phenomenally gifted artist, having created three amazing paintings in front of our eyes within fifteen minutes. He told a similar story about how he loved to paint and color as a child. When he was young, his teacher told him that he shouldn’t color or draw because he couldn’t stay within the lines.

What happened as a result? He never painted again and went into the field of business. It wasn’t until his thirties that he turned to painting and drawing in order to emotionally deal with a traumatic situation in his life. He has since left the field of business and is now a successful artist.

What’s the moral of my story? Provide opportunities for reading, writing and other creative endeavors in the home and school setting. Provide encouragement and constructive criticism, even if you think that children may not need it. Sometimes children who have a knack for something might need just as much encouragement as a child who is struggling. Lack of encouragement and constructive criticism can affect someone’s confidence for years.

I’ll be exploring this topic a bit further in an upcoming post with a focus on bilingualism and second language acquisition. Second language theorists often describe this phenomenon as the affective filter, an impediment to learning sparked by fear, self-doubt, lack of confidence and anxiety.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: