Wednesday, June 23, 2010

High stakes

Give critiques in front of everyone, Brian Snyder said. It raises the bar and makes students really listen to feedback. I have to agree.

I loved the honest and sometimes brutal criticism Brian gave. He wasn’t mincing words: “this is wacky,” “this doesn’t do anything for me.” Yet he still found something well-executed to acknowledge in each video. I needed to hear the feedback on multiple videos, not just my own, to develop a good sense of what works and what doesn’t. And while I thought our video was decent when we turned it in, I know from seeing other ones that I still have a lot to work on. Hearing feedback on just one student or group’s assignment just isn’t enough. Doing the public showing and critique raised the bar from good to great – and I want my students to get to great.

But there’s one other piece in this lesson that made us all want to keep trying: the opportunity to go back and practice new techniques, revise and redo, and resubmit. Without that chance to go back, this method doesn’t work.

My students said that journalism was the first class where it mattered that they did their work. As an English teacher, I know I’m too often of letting assignments fall into the black hole of my grading pile for weeks, and students have complained that they don’t even know if their other teachers are reading their work. In journalism, they have to get three peers to edit, and then put their work out to the world (since high school is, after all, the whole world, right?).

Publishing work (or showing video) definitely raises the stakes for students, and as I think about the upcoming school year, I’m going to plan on making sure all of my classes, not just journalism, have that same forum to show work and receive critiques, and then to go back, revise, and resubmit.

Kim Vinh
Sequoia High School
Redwood City, Calif.


  1. I agree with everything. As an English teacher, I know how the papers can pile up.
    As for the critiques on our videos, honesty can be very good teacher.
    I wanted to go back and redo our video as well.
    Leona O'Neal
    George County High School
    Lucedale, Miss.

  2. We print 8,000 copies of our print media and its so funny how a critique in front of students' peers is much more powerful than that fact. I think that is the key fact of the impact journalism has on other aspects of a student's education: what we do is real.

    I do wonder if that fact would change if journalism a required class for ALL students.

    Nate Thompson
    Montezuma-Cortez High School
    Cortez, Colo.