Sunday, 13 October 2013

Correct Instead of Critique

My school had the pleasure of hosting an event with Ron Berger after we had been following a similar program to High-Tech High's projects for two weeks with our Year 7, 8 and 9 students. During this hosting, Ron discussed some successful projects at his Expeditionary Schools in addition to answering questions from the audience.


Ron has accumulated many admirers following his book An Ethic of Excellence which promotes the idea of critiquing students' work. He develops a protocol for this (if you've not seen Austin's butterfly, you really should) which is incredibly useful for developing the quality of students' work.

The word critique suggests something wrong or that has some mistake in some way. These mistakes or imperfections will be spotted via a peer at the end of a draft and the student will go on to draft another piece of work trying to improve upon their work using the kind, specific and helpful feedback.

This means that students have visible progress of a first draft compared to their latest draft (see Austin's Butterfly for an example). This has an added benefit that the student can see the progress that they have made since their first draft often acting as quite a powerful motivational tool.

Corrections Rather Than Critiquing

However, after reading Practice Perfect by Doug Lemov, I can't help but think it should be a culture of Correct rather than Critique. Lemov suggests instead of waiting till a draft is complete, the corrections are made as soon as possible.

"Try to shorten the feedback loop and achieve correction as quickly as possible after an action that requires intervention."

Whilst maintaining the protocols of critiquing, the quicker feedback model suggested here could have many additional benefits:

  1. If the student is receiving the feedback before they have finished, they can implement the changes on their current work.
  2. Similarly, they can make corrections related to the first mistake in the rest of their work.
  3. Feedback which is delivered earlier means that the student isn't wasting their time finishing the rest of their draft; they can save time by implementing the changes.
  4. Feedback given earlier is more memorable. Compare your students getting feedback about capital letters during their work; at the end of the lesson, perhaps from a peer, when they have finished the work; at the start of the next lesson from their teacher.
  5. If the student is making those corrections during the lesson, it is visible progress during the lesson.

It may just be the terminology in that critique involves telling a participant how to do it better but correction means going back and doing it again, and doing it better - as soon as possible. Whatever term the teacher uses, it is vitally important that they employ the correction method in order for the students to learn.

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