Harness Yourself

harnasFeedback can kill you, negative feedback that is. Getting no feedback about your performance has a similar effect. That leaves us with positive feedback. But yeah, just getting positive feedback does not feel right as well. “ Oh; Wow, did you just draw that beautiful vase with flowers?”; “Yes, well, actually it’s more like a …. (Sigh) ”.  Feedback can hurt your self-concept so badly, you just may even quit what you like (1). That is even the case when your actual performance is not that bad at all. So, irrespective of what you are able to do feedback can bring you down no matter. Take the case of two learners confronted with (negative) feedback: one with a high self-concept of ability while doing low in performance, and the other with a modest perception of competence while actually doing quite well also.  What would you think will happen to their motivation after a bad appraisal? (2)

These intrinsic motivation effects were gauged in a study on students’ self-concepts after having received negative feedback. It turned out that despite positive learning goal orientations and irrespective of the real outcomes of their task behavior students’ self-concepts declined after having negative feedback and did drop their motivation to do a subsequent task .

Back to the case above. You might have thought that the first student expecting a low rating, gets away with no (great) harm to self-concept, and that it is the second one who got the real blow. But it is not that straightforward given the outcomes of the study. Realistic self-assessments (in both students) can be overruled by feedback nevertheless.

We care about what other’s think of us – we seek it even. Polls, ratings, evaluations, it is all part of our feedback mania.

The tricky part is that realistic self-perceptions are not a safeguard. You might think you are doing well and even may be right in that self-assessment but when others present you with negative comments it will affect you nonetheless.

Harness yourself then and scrutinize your appraisals: as a well meant recommendation to all students stepping into the grading and examination period ahead.



Why does intrinsic motivation decline following negative feedback? The mediating role of ability self-concept and its moderation by goal orientations by Anne F.Weidinger , Birgit Spinath, Ricarda Steinmayr, in Learning and Individual Differences 47 (2016) 117–128

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.lindif.2016.01.003 1041-6080/© 2016 Elsevier Inc.



  1. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-take-misery-out-giving-feedback-neena-newberry
  2. http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/quizzes/selfesteem/

Grades, Or Less Of Them?


What would happen if there were no grades? Stupid question, the whole education system would fall apart. It is built on grades. But really, what would happen? Grades are so immanent to the system one can hardly imagine how it would function without it. There were times without it when pupils did their exercises and had to come forward to be rehearsed at the front desk of the teacher. Not good enough? Go back and Try again! But that was hundred or more years ago. There are also education systems that weaken the role of grades, like the Montessori or Dalton systems (1). But they function mainly for young children. Grades establish the critical role of education in determining achievement. Without grades no certainty about what is attained or mastered. So, there is good reason to ask about whether or not grades are up to the task of establishing achievement. To be explicit, grades are marks given by a teacher to work delivered by a student. An alternative would be to administer achievement tests. Main difference between them is that grades are teacher, teaching, and classroom context dependent; achievement tests are supposed to be neutral to that effect. Grades may vary: what one teacher in one classroom might rate as sufficient, another probably would consider still below standard. Giving grades, like teachers do, is sensitive and adaptive to the learning process and its learner. It is therefore an indicator of attainment “at the local level”. And it is a cause of variation “at the central level”.

In an excellent article a review was undertaken on the role of grades over the past fifty year or so, scrutinizing the position grades have in our education system with some important outcomes: The variation in results between graded and tested achievement is moderate in size. Yes, grading incorporates student, teacher, and classroom characteristics, but these effects are small. Early in the education system (elementary school) differences between marks and tests are larger; but later on they become more similar. It is concluded that graded achievement is a valid measure of classroom learning.

One up for graded achievement!

It is no secret, the trend is towards testing achievement. High stake testing against standardized goals that are unequivocally applied is what dominates the assessment debate. Not that grading is being abandoned but as a source of variation it has become mistrusted or at least questioned (3). However, to give a meaningful account of a pupil’s attainment relative to personality, effort, behavior, classroom context classroom learning skills, gender, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity grading still is an honest, reliable, sensitive, and caring way of establishing levels of achievement. Good that we have this in our educational system.

Susan M. Brookhart (2015) Graded Achievement, Tested Achievement, and Validity, In: Educational Assessment, 20:4, 268-296, To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10627197.2015.1093928


1. http://montessori-nw.org/what-is-montessori-education/
2. http://study.com/academy/lesson/high-stakes-testing-accountability-and-problems.html
3. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/j.2333-8504.2000.tb01838.x/pdf

Pass or Fail


It is a necessity of life – passing exams. Exams are gatekeepers of a future to be mastered, more often than they are gateways to potential directions in life. So better pass exams than getting blocked by them. Taking exams is a hurdle that needs to be overcome, often at high emotional costs. The idea is of course that previous activity in courses taken in programs offered by schools aids to the successful tackling of the barrier but students know very well that this preparation is certainly not a guarantee. Therefore, as a strategy, it would be better not to take high risks by trying to excel in mastery of knowledge and skills but stay on the safe side of your overall ability record when confronted by the probing eyes of examiners or the nasty queries by supervisors. There exists considerable student knowledge on how to do exams (1). Trusting exams to be a fair and considerate, representative and authentic instrument would help. After all, you would like to know whether it will give an honest and trustworthy exemplification of your current state of abilities. But when you have taken exams before you know better. They often give just an arbitrary, temporary, and partially snapshot of what you would be able to perform or understand normally. It all heavily depends on the selection exam assignments and the ones who are rating it .
A study on evaluating interns abilities after completing their intern program was done to look at different types of exam assignments issued by examiners (from the intern organization) and supervisors (from the teaching organization). It revealed a low correlation between exam methods and between overall ratings done by examiners and supervisors. Different evaluation methods yielded different results, and no significant relation was found between rating by examiners and supervisors.
Knowing this makes one cautious not to step into an exam too lightly by simply performing well or doing one’s utmost in completing assignments. Strategic deliberations take over control: aiming for a minimal overall pass level; concentrating on specific exam tasks while going to underperform on others; selecting a subset of assignments by skipping ambiguous ones. There are numerous exam training courses that will help you out here (2) . Of course at the expense of giving a true, overall and representative depiction of your ability; their ultimate and sole aim is passing, not failing. But is that not in fact stimulating misjudgment?

Exams are too important to fail. But also too important to let misjudgments take over. The study’s finding that different evaluation methods yield different results is not a bad sign in itself; they could be measuring different aspects of performance. Misjudgment of one-sided judgment occurs when only one type of raters uses one type of method, while others are assigned to another method. Better, more balanced measurement occurs when multiple raters are involved in a multiple measurement. The key to acceptance of exams as a dependable measurement approach is that the combined set of evaluation methods goes together with a trustworthy rating of competence. Its steadiness lies in the combination.

Oral Case Examinations for Assessing Intern Competence by Robert W. Goldberg and Kevin R. Young Training and Education in Professional Psychology 2015, Vol. 9, No. 3, 242–247


1. http://www.quora.com/What-are-some-of-the-best-ways-to-cheat-in-examinations
2. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1041608010001123
3. https://www.tolley.co.uk/products-and-services/exam-training#

Get Liked


A decade or so ago the expression “I have liked…” would have sounded a bit weird. But thanks to Facebook we are now ‘liking’ all the time: giving our evaluations and opinions about what others do. There is even market value in doing that. No matter what we really think or understand about the issue “liking” has become a true democratic tool that allows everyone to express a verdict. No matter the variety, depth and multi-perspectivity of your opinion you “like’ by one token only, all included. You can ‘like’: music, sites, books, persons, institutions…; even teachers?
Student evaluations of their instruction and teaching experiences are liked by many: principals, district or state school officers, parents, and to some degree even by students who have to fill in forms almost after any course they take (1) . Admitted: these forms are a bit more sophisticated in the degree of their likings than thumbs up or down- they use Likert scales instead (what’ s in a name). Now, if you want to be liked (do teachers want to be liked or….?) at least you would want the evaluation to be fair and transparent. But what is more important (certainly in performing professions) you like to have feedback. Not appraising judgments but assessments for learning.
The cited study gauged student evaluations of their teaching experiences using the format of: stop, start, continue (i.e., what a teacher should avoid, improve, and keep on using). It turned out that this review method was more liked by students (than giving a written reflective evaluation) and on top of that led to greater depth of feedback (more meaningful comments to the teacher).

What about this feedback? It is provided to the teacher but there it halts. Feedback, according to Assessment for Learning theorists (2) , must be processed in order to have effect. It is just like instruction itself. Something must be done with it. Now, most evaluation and review methods fall short of instructional value. Nevertheless, they could provide a wonderful opportunity to achieve precisely that. In this case, for instance, by having a post instruction meeting of teacher and students to review what went well or remained difficult to grasp in the teaching just experienced. Such a post lesson conversation would contribute to learning of students and of teachers. Strange that we hardly do it. Certainly a waste of feedback information .

Alice Hoon, Emily Oliver, Kasia Szpakowska & Philip Newton (2015). Use of the ‘Stop, Start, Continue’ method is associated with the production of constructive qualitativefeedback by students in higher education, In: Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 40:5,755-767, DOI: 10.1080/02602938.2014.956282
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2014.956282

summaru 34

1. http://www.oecd.org/edu/imhe/44058352.pdf
2. http://www.ccsso.org/resources/program/formative_assessment_for_students_and_teachers_%28fast%29.html

Caring about


Looking into a mirror for a critical inspection, we do it many times a day. No harm in knowing how we are doing. It is a private thing and we do not allow many others to know what we know, unless of course we have a “trusted other” who may peek: “Mirror, mirror on the wall who is the most fairy of them all”. There is a painting by Manet of Olympia, a goddess of beautiful perfection showing how she waves aside a mirror that is handed to her. She knows she is perfect, no need for further assessment. But we mortals alas need to be informed how we are doing. A Trusted Other is more than welcome.
And there are helping agents who are willing to hold a mirror. The study cited found that more than 90% of the teachers supported student self-assessment and were willing to deploy it in their classrooms. This is an exceptionally positive outcome, and according to the authors a reassuring finding for fostering learning in students. Such a high favoritism on part of teachers for self-assessment needs to be explained and the article gives 5 plausible backgrounds: (1) positive experience, (2) high belief in students, (3) willingness to include, (4) advantages and (5) attending courses.
Still the feeling remains: why are teachers so positive? What is it that brings them to embrace it. It cannot be that students are doing their job, i.,e. assessing grades. Or that teachers get tired of pointing out the same defects in study behaviors over and over again. There must be a deeper level to the self-reports explaining why. I can only guess, but it must have something to do with the teaching profession itself, since almost all teachers in the survey agree. Probably it has to do with being a pedagogue (1) , a trusted other whose main incentive it is to foster understandings, to hold a mirror. I wonder if it was not apparent somewhere in the self reports: the pride of teaching.

Teachers’ reasons for using self-assessment: a survey self-report of Spanish teachers
Ernesto Panadero, Gavin Brown & Matthew Courtney
In: Assessment in Education Principles, Policy & Practice, 21:4, 365-383,
DOI: 10.1080/0969594X.2014.919247
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0969594X.2014.919247


1. http://www.fzf.ukim.edu.mk/files/pedagog_agenda.pdf

Whistling the tune properly


Is it not strange ?: learners seem to benefit when acting as a teacher and seem to gain quite a lot in doing so. Why is that?
Of course, giving feedback lies at the heart of teaching. In fact, It is a highly influential way of maintaining conversation with students. The study’s outcome has been found repeatedly in the many studies on feedback (1). Students like feedback; lots of it when it comes to that. Not that they learn a lot from it all the time (2); which is also found. But why then is giving feedback such a gainful strategy, when pupils’ learning is concerned? We do not know for sure. Some tentative suggestions are given in the study under hand: May be it has to do with “raising awareness” on part of the peer reviewers, the author says. That is a plausible contention, but also a bit implied by the fact that the peer reviewer is giving feedback. Because: how can you in giving feedback not be aware of what you are saying to your peer. You need to be knowledgeable on what to comment; otherwise your peer will criticize you severely. We know that from peer assessment studies (3). So the ‘explanation’ is a bit self-referent, and not really satisfying. Nevertheless, the study triggers a deep ‘searching‘ for explanations, since feedback giving is such a central and profitable strategy in learning. As I see it the peer reviewers in the study under hand were very advantageous because they ‘possessed’ the appropriate teacher knowledge about the learning task. They were (partly, gradually, stepwise, or in other staged manners) attuned to teaching the stuff. And that helps. Giving feedback is much like gradually learning how to whistle the tune. The peer reviewers were, in fact, apprentices of teaching and that gives them momentum and focus on the content to be learned.

Learning from giving feedback: a study of secondary-level students by Jessica Berggren
Downloaded from http://eltj.oxfordjournals.org



1: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02602938.2013.795518#.VKpToXv-kaY
2: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0742051X14000766
3: http://books.google.nl/books?hl=nl&lr=&id=dHN9AwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PR5&dq=peer+assessment+review&ots=45wrQKpC0j&sig=ZPgKS7vxXbG8nQRxV79-RyPiZd8#v=onepage&q=peer%20assessment%20review&f=false