Feedback that’s Honest, Student-Centered, and Useful

“Teach a man to fish…”

Teaching the Writing Process = Building Student Confidence = Improving Student Performance

Step 1: Feedback that’s honest, student-centered, and useful.

So, how can teachers build student confidence and, at the same time, provide them with

feedback that is both honest and valuable in terms of improving skills for written expression?  In this first blog, we address the use of student-centered feedback. The phrase, ‘student-centered feedback,’ refers to any assessment tool that identifies the individual student’s own pattern of strengths and weaknesses. This is not the same as the approach where we look for aggregates of strengths and weaknesses in the class as a whole. The ‘aggregate’ approach asks: What skills need improving for most of the students in my class? The student-centered approach asks: What are this student’s strengths and weaknesses? In the aggregate approach to classroom instruction, students respond with thoughts like “this doesn’t necessarily apply to me (and decreases motivation)”. In the student-centered approach, students respond by spontaneously asking teachers to evaluate their individual writing products (“Do mine,” they’ll say). Students feel that they are not wasting their time on unneeded tasks AND that the specifics you give them make it clear what they need to do.

Anyone who has worked with adolescents also knows that being overly generous in praise causes students to become somewhat skeptical of the advice that is given to them. A student-centered approach allows us to build our ‘advice’ credibility for students. It also provides the opportunity for students to know, or prove to themselves, that they have improved.  Therefore, there are two tasks that need to be accomplished with any feedback we give. The feedback method should: 1) Let students know how the information will help them improve even more, and 2) set-up tasks so that the student sees how much he or she has improved.  In other words, our feedback should provide a positive bent to recommendations, make credible teacher feedback, and build student confidence in their own abilities.

How do we incorporate these techniques into the classroom?  We invite you to register on our website and receive a link to our webinar discussing how to implement a student-centered approach for grammar instruction (called “Mechanics Workshop”) along with the Grammar Evaluation form that we use with students. Ideally, we want to use the same evaluation tool after the first essay the students write as well as after a quarterly essay, as this allows us to thoroughly follow students’ work on one or two of the targeted skills.

Follow our quarterly blog for more information on how to build student confidence at Email us your thoughts or interests via

Our NEXT BLOG will outline Step 2 to building student confidence:“Make Problem Solving Steps Explicit.” Tune in and email us to find out what exactly that means and how a teacher can make problem solving steps specific. We believe writing is a meta-problem solving task.


Want to learn more about what student-centered teaching means? Head to, an article on the definition of student-centered learning and how it differs from teacher-centered learning. It discusses examples of student-centered learning and explains how to implement those practices into every-day teaching as well as provides critique on the positives and negatives of this learning technique.

Another article that can give more info on the student-centered approach can be found here: . This article gives the five main characteristics of learner (or student)-centered teaching and the kinds of benefits it can provide to both students and teachers. It explains how students are more motivated, more reflective, and how they work harder with the student-centered approach as opposed to more teacher-centralized options.

OTHER RESOURCES FOR TEACHERS: provides information for teachers and parents alike who are interested in equal access to quality education for children who are learning English. is an official Discovery Channel website that has free teaching resources for writing as well as many other subjects. They offer lesson plans and worksheets as well as a multitude of story mapping techniques