Students and Criticism: How Do We End The Sugar Coating?

Everyday in class, there is some discussion. I think that’s a fair statement. We’re all English Ed majors. We all have at least 2 classes that participate in dialogical pedagogy. But why does it feel like such a waste of time so often? People are kind in class to other’s opinions, because they don’t want to be labeled as a mean person, and become the class leper.

But in all honesty, when we listen to these horrible statements and rants from other students, this movie clip runs in the back of our minds.

I feel like this has been a problem for most of us since even middle school. The greatest example is when you are supposed to peer review someone else’s essay. You find a couple little tiny errors and then say “But the rest looks awesome!” even though there is no topic sentence and it’s written in the tears of dying hippogryphs.

This social code we have to follow kills the reality of our assessment. We rely too much on the teacher or professor to give us an accurate review of our work, throwing out our peer’s thoughts as useless bologna (the meat, not the city).

So moving toward our future profession: how do we encourage students to critically review each other’s work? Is there a better strategy then just throwing them into small groups to swap and trade essays?

Part of me wants to believe it’s about establishing a really tight-knit community before you get to that stage. Making sure that student’s feel comfortable in your classroom environment  and feel safe when it comes time for that review would make a lot of difference. Or perhaps students will continue to walk on egg shells when they try to tell each other their work isn’t up to par. Especially in middle school, the social pressure from your peers is tremendous. It’s hard as instructors to override it.

As for class discussions, even though many of my teachers have said that it’s the students’ responsibility to moderate them keep them going/equal, I still think that the teacher should have an active role in that process. Otherwise, the conversation will be monopolized, or will fizzle out completely. And no want either of those things to happen. My AP Lit teacher would start us off with a question, then sit back and observe the conversation. If he didn’t like where it was going (only a few were talking, the conversation was dying out, the conversation wasn’t academic worthy) he would tell us to rearrange the desks out of the circle and he would lecture instead. This was something none of us wanted, and we respected him as a teacher and didn’t want to displease him, so we always tried to do our best to have a good class discussion.

This is something I think should be utilized in “higher level” 6-college classrooms. No one wants to sit in silence, and no one wants to hear the same person talk over and over.

When That Student Who Always Talks Doesn’t Get Called On

With more equal chances for discussion for everyone, people would get to know each other and not worry about being critical on each other’s assignments.




5 thoughts on “Students and Criticism: How Do We End The Sugar Coating?

  1. alasamy says:

    I think that a good question to go along with what you discuss in this blog post would be whether or not we will be able to effectively critique our students’ work. Many of US have only experienced the type of “But the rest looks awesome!” peer editing that you discuss here. Our interest in being teachers would lead many pre-service teachers to think, “No, I will be different when I am a teacher,” but as long as we continue to offer ineffective criticism to each other in our classes now, it is likely that we will either continue to critique this way when we are teachers or only scratch the surface of effective critiquing skills until later in our careers as teachers. Maybe the question to spend some effort on while we still have our own professors to seek advice from regards what we can do to make our criticism and class participation more effective. We’d get the double-bonus of learning how to do it effectively while at the same time examining how to get to the most effective strategies.


    P.S. This blog post is awesome! =)

    • bonnetnicholas says:

      Thank you for the reply! I agree that professors should delve more into this issue in our education classes. We should hound them about it!

  2. tealanaronn says:

    I was laughing super hard for two reasons. First, your pictures and videos are always awesome. Second, that video got me thinking; it was more of a nervous laugh for that one. I know I ramble, but my thoughts make sense in my mind. Now, I am just scared to speak in class. Anyway, I think you need to create an environment before you are going to critically grade a peer, but the hard thing is time restriction. How do we make a tight community within our classrooms with the time allotted? I guess that is just something to think about.

    Loved this post.

    Tealana Ronn

    • bonnetnicholas says:

      I was thinking about that too, Tealana. How can we allow any time for community building when there are so many other requirements in our classrooms. I don’t have any good thoughts on that, other than trying to incorporate community projects and discussions into the core curriculum. I’m glad you enjoyed my post, Desdemona!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s