Language Demands

The way that teachers speak to students and convey instructions for assignments can completely make or break a student’s understanding of the assignment. One of the main examples of this is how teachers handle discourse within the classroom. As history educators, discourse is nearly inevitable, since history is inherently political. The edTPA handout gives a few examples of how to properly handle discourse, like analyzing political cartoons, analyzing newspaper editorials, and constructing arguments like debates. As long as you, the educator, are guiding students through the political sphere, you can safely foster discourse with students who may harbor different political ideals in a safe and respectful manner.

Another example of where and how language matters in the classroom can be found in the feedback that is given. Oftentimes teachers don’t think that students actually read feedback–they’ve gotten the grade already, so teachers may assume that students treat this feedback as unnecessary. Getting Them To Read Our Comments notes that, “…many of us write our comments with a grade-centered approach in mind: Our feedback is there to justify the grade in case the student complains.” (Gooblar, 1) The author then goes on to propose the idea of “feedforward” rather than giving students feedback, meaning that the educator should phrase feedback with the future in mind: how can the student research better in the future? How can the student structure a paper better in the future? Rather than justifying the grade with finality, an educator should phrase their feedback in a way that gives a nod to the future and towards future assignments.

No matter if we’re discussing in-class language or feedback (or, rather, feedforward), teachers always need to be conscious that their words are going to be analyzed, and sometimes overanalyzed, and scrutinized by an audience of young students. With that in mind, teachers should expect to word their language with the future in mind, always tying it back into future lessons and future research, and keep their language unbiased and constructed in a way that fosters kind and respectful discourse.