7. Brickbats and Bouquets


Brickbats and Bouquets

While the scenario above is intended to at least make us smile, if this was genuine feedback for this student, it would likely stay with him for quite some time.  Why?  Because according to Nass (cited by Tugend, 2012) the brain handles positive and negative comments in different hemispheres.  Negative emotions involve more thinking, and therefore are processed more thoroughly than positive emotions.  Because of the extra processing negative information receives, it contributes more strongly to the final impression than does positive information.


Baumester et al. (2001) strengthens this argument with research that finds bad feedback has more impact than good feedback, and students see bad feedback as how the teacher really feels but regard the good feedback as more accurate. Even when I’m tearing my hair out after hours of marking, I still hope to be able to temper negative feedback with positive.

For feedback to be effective it needs to be:

  • Timely (close enough to the event to have meaning);
  • Regular (the more often pupils get quality feedback, the more they’ll understand how to improve); and
  • Actionable ( if students don’t see the feedback as being possible to implement, it will be ignored)(Kirby, 2013).

With this in mind, I set about marking an assignment which can be found here: EDS4408 Marking Exercise

What mark did the assessment warrant?

I felt the work warranted an over-all grade of C but was a borderline C/D.  I think at this stage of my “teaching career” I don’t have the confidence to grade it as a fail.  While the student had generally used language appropriate to the geographical genre; developed effective matrices for decision making; and justified their claims in accordance with their matrices; research was non-existent.  A lack of maps, diagrams and statistics to back their claims, for me, meant the work could not receive more than a minimal pass. They used tables effectively but did not follow correct writing protocols and naming conventions when including these tables.

What feedback would be beneficial for each student to receive?

Each student should receive feedback that reflects their performance against the criteria used in the marking matrix.   An effective marking matrix should be designed to focus teaching and learning on the most important content and skills required.  It therefore follows that feedback correctly aligned to the matrix, should identify any gaps in students’ learning in relation to content and skills (QCAA, 2015).   Through providing feedback specifically related to the task, feedback adopts an instructional purpose and bridges the gap between what is understood, and what is aimed to be understood (Sadler cited by Hattie, 2007).  Along with giving the student insight into why they received their relative mark and allowing you to justify that mark, providing feedback that relates to the matrix should further their ability to consider how their next assignment will be marked and construct it accordingly.

What is of particular importance to highlight when reporting on student’s achievement?

Not only should good feedback identify any gaps in learning, it should also provide a pathway for the student to develop.  For this student, their decision making approach was well thought out and appropriate for the task. This indicates they have understood what was required and likely have the potential to work at a higher standard than what was presented.  If I had other examples of this student’s work I’d be able to determine if this assignment was an anomaly for some particular reason, or if the student needs more guidance on how to undertake research that would provide evidence and support claims made in their work.   Perhaps they could be directed to my previous post on Locating, Evaluating and Organising Information Sources.

‘A fundamental paradox of marking is this: the students who need the most help and the most feedback, are those who are least able to engage with written comments in order to secure improvement; the students who need the least help are those best able to engage with written comments.’ – Tom Sherrington (cited in Kirby, 2013)


Baumeister, R., Bratslavsky, E., Finkenauer, C., Vohs, K., & Salovey, Peter. (2001). Bad Is Stronger Than Good. Review of General Psychology, 5(4), 323-370.

Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The Power of Feedback. Review of Educational Research77(1), 81-112

Kirby, J. (2013).  What if you marked every book every lesson? Retrieved from https://pragmaticreform.wordpress.com/2013/11/02/every-book-every-lesson/

Queensland Curriculum & Assessment Authority [QCAA]. (2015). Feedback. Retrieved from https://www.qcaa.qld.edu.au/p-10/transition-school/continuity-curriculum-pedagogies/feedback

Tugend, A. (2012). Praise is Fleeting, but Brickbats we Recall.  Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/24/your-money/why-people-remember-negative-events-more-than-positive-ones.html?ref=oembed


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