Positive Feedback At Talkfest In Taiwan

I found this letter to the Taipei Times on why students are silent to raise some interesting issues. Briefly, author Paul Lowe points out that students are often subjected to negative feedback on their performance in English (and I would guess other subjects as well) in school which isn’t conducive to language learning. He recently participated in a week-long project called Talkfest, where each schoolchild spent five minutes talking one to one with him in English, and found that it did seem to build confidence in the kids when they realized they could in fact communicate – and it did not prove to be, as some local teachers feared “the most terrifying five minutes” of the students’ lives.

I think there are a lot of good points here, most of which are worthy of lengthy discussion which I won’t attempt to provide here (yet). One is the difficulty in overcoming student beliefs that negative feedback should be a large part of education – even when it seems clear that it hasn’t served them very well.

Another is the one brought up most directly by the letter – of how much of language learning and “success” is based on building confidence and other psychological factors.

Also important is finding the right balance of correction, given the common student preoccupation with it along with your own knowledge that while correction shouldn’t be excessive, there are often appropriate uses for it.

However you look at it, I think this letter makes an important point about the necessity of positive feedback.