How to Give Students Constructive Feedback

There is no failure, only feedback.

Giving and receiving constructive feedback is one of the most challenging aspects of teaching and learning. As the teacher, it is part of your job to guide your students and help them improve in their musical practice. Within that guidance, there should be constructive feedback that helps the student along the way. It is also important to guide students in receiving that feedback and growing from it. Many students, especially young ones, might receive it as something they are doing wrong, instead of something that they can do better.

Taking Time to Give Feedback

You’ve been with your student for a few months now and have been training them from the beginning, but they are hitting a wall and aren’t making as much progress as you’d like so it’s time to give some constructive feedback. As you well know, every student is different and will receive feedback differently. When it comes time to give constructive feedback, here are a few simple rules to follow:

1. Don't Compare Talent

First and foremost, there is never a situation where you should compare one student to another based on their talent. When you start comparing students' talents it can be very demotivating and take away from the learning and growth that is supposed to take place.

Each student has their own strengths and weaknesses. Maybe one student needs more work on remembering all the keys of the instrument and another needs to work on their tempo. It is important, especially in a group setting to find a way to give that individualized feedback for them to apply to their practice.

2. Be Specific, Show Examples

Being specific with feedback and giving clear action points. So much about playing an instrument requires attention to detail - and multiple details at once. So, giving vague feedback won't help so much. Examples that you can demonstrate, will help your student to understand how to correct their mistake. Once they see that specific feedback and improvement, they will feel empowered and even pass along that instruction to a fellow student who may be having the same issue.

3. Include Positive Feedback

Although constructive feedback is always needed to help students grow, it’s crucial to give them positive feedback when things are done right. It helps your student to identify when they are doing something right so that they continue to do so, eventually without even thinking about it! Also, it just feels good to see that satisfaction bouncing back at you!

Positive feedback is also a great way for the student to feel that they are growing and can take on new challenges moving forward. Next time they hit a challenge, and get frustrated, you can remind them of this achievement.

Consider This:

Feedback isn't just for students, it's for you too! As you give feedback to students it is important to see if it is effective. Are they improving? Why is that? Do they understand your directions and are they taking it well? It could as simple as them not practicing or following through, or it could come down to your feedback and how you are delivering it. Sometimes, it is worth taking these signs as feedback for yourself, for your own growth in the teaching and learning process.