It’s a risk, to be sure
Before we define the likes and wonders strategy, I wonder if you can relate to this.
You heard or read about all the benefits of students giving each other feedback about their work, either about essays, projects, presentations, etc. So you decided to try it in your classroom. It started off well, but then one of your students told another that their essay was sloppy, which caused the other student to take offense. Before you knew it, you had to step in to diffuse the situation.
Yikes! Not going to try that again anytime soon, right?
Likes and Wonders
What we too often forget, as teachers, is that our students (at least some of them in nearly every situation) need to be taught everything. Many students don’t know how to tactfully give and receive feedback. Likes and Wonders can help. It’s quite simple:
- When students give an affirmation during feedback, they must start the sentence with “I like…”
- When students offer suggestions for improvement, they must start the sentence with “I wonder…”
That’s it. But let’s break it down further.
When all students start affirmations with “I like,” all affirmations become equal and normalized. It’s difficult, then, for a student to engage in harmful comparison (yeah, you liked mine, but you loved theirs!).
Pro tip: encourage feedback receivers to remain silent or say a simple “thank you” instead of taking back the locus of control. Control should mostly stay in the hands of the feedback giver.
Similarly, when students give suggestions by saying “I wonder,” the critique instantly becomes softer and easier to receive. “This essay is sloppy” seamlessly turns into “I wonder if this essay could be written clearer.” Same feedback, but one way is much more likely to cause conflict than the other.
You could try out lots of different variations of these sentence starters as well. Remember, the intent is to equalize affirmations and soften critiques.
So give it a try during your next feedback protocol!