06 Jul The Value of Giving Constructive Feedback to Adult Learners

Written by Sue Brett, Group Strategy Director at Eton Institute

Bonjour, hola, an-young-ha-se-yo and dia duit. In one of the TESOL courses at Eton Institute, learners had the pleasure of learning a few words in French, Spanish, Korean and Irish as part of their peer learning. As they struggled to produce the unfamiliar yet beautiful sounds of Irish, once again I was reminded that, as adults, we often know what we are doing, and it’s strange to be in a position where we don’t!

One of the biggest challenges is frustration in the classroom for adult groups, whether it’s because of a difficult topic, or because learners are not making the progress they want to. We expect much from ourselves as adults, and far too often, we link success to achievement and not effort.

Isn’t it interesting that we learn to praise children for effort first and foremost, but apply different rules for adults? Not fair, as our younger colleagues would say! Perhaps it’s because, when we praise a child, they believe the praise, whereas as adults we find it more difficult or awkward, presumably because:

  • We tend to hear less praise
  • We are expected to be able to handle criticism more maturely

Well, sorry, I like praise! Everyone should be rewarded for effort, and yes, if that is linked to achievement, great, but effort is still effort. The phrase is: “As long as you do your best, that’s all you can do.” I never hear the phrase: “As long as you do your best; but if that isn’t good enough, then I’m still not going be happy.”

Praise for learners is crucial, and belongs centre place in our teaching strategy mind map. Coupled with constructive, SPECIFIC feedback, it’s a key part of developing learners, based on individual progress.

Effective praise:

  • Praises desirable behaviours or genuine accomplishment,ISN’T random without specific attention to genuine accomplishment
  • Highlights the praiseworthy aspects of the learner’s accomplishments,ISN’T general.
  • Is expressed sincerely, showing spontaneity and variety,ISN’T bland, using the same phrases every time.
  • Is given for genuine effort, progress, or accomplishment specific to the individual,ISN’T given based on comparisons with others, doesn’t ignore effort expended or significance of the accomplishment of an individual
  • Provides information to learners about their accomplishments and how to make progress,ISN’T general, without action points
  • Helps learners to better appreciate their thinking, problem-solving and performance,ISN’T just a comparison to others, or shows what they can’t do.
  • Links learner success to effort and ability, that is built upon,DOESN’T link learner success to ability alone or to external factors such as luck or easy task.

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