I used to garden with a friend, J. Daniel Hess, who wrote a book on
criticism. He taught writing. One day while picking peas I asked
him, "How can we use criticism with our students without discouraging
them?" I said, "A number of us art teachers had something we called
the sandwich approach. We give a compliment, then we meat out the
problem, then we cover it with some nice white bread at the end with
another compliment." Dan's response was, "Students only remember the
bad things we say. It is best to deal with with problems with
questions. As teachers and experts, we need to take some of the
responsibility by needing help in understand whatever is seen as a
problem." Sometimes when I ask a question, the student does explain
something I had totally overlooked.
That said - these are some examples of how I have tried to Dan's
ideas into practice.
"What is the best idea you used in this one that you want to use
again on your next one? Which parts do you think need to be changed?
What are some ways you could work at this on the next one?"
"Which parts are you happiest about? Which part needs more practice?
How could you practice that? Is there some way I could be helpful?
"This part has a great effect because . . . . I bet you could come
up with several ideas to make this part work just as well."
My own art practice requires that I be hyper-sensitive about mistakes
for the sake of getting my own work right. Unfortunately, this
trains my eye to notice student mistakes before I have a chance to
realize they are students. It has not been easy to stop and rephrase
my teaching responses.