As a Yearbook Adviser, How to Give Constructive Criticism to Your Committee

Part of your role as a yearbook adviser is to offer constructive criticism to your committee. This is what helps them improve their work, and learn the best practices for building great content into your book. What many advisers struggle with is how to provide feedback in a way that gets to the heart of what needs improvement in a positive, impactful way, and really helps the individuals on your committee improve their skills. After all, an excited, motivated committee is much more productive than one that’s always receiving negative feedback on their work! Below, I’ll walk you through a quick, four-step process that you can use to offer criticism in a way that helps your team’s work improve, while still giving them something positive to walk away with.

1. Note What They Did Well

Whenever you’re showing a member of your committee where they can improve, remember to start with what they did well. You don’t want to leave your team with the impression that you’re only looking for mistakes. By calling out the positive first, you show your team that you recognize their hard work, and where they succeeded in a particular project. Constructive feedback doesn’t just focus on what people need to improve. It’s also about celebrating what they’ve done well. Plus, when you put some positive in with the negative, you help keep your team more motivated!

2. Call Out What Needs Improvement

Next, show the individual member of your committee what could be improved. Don’t make generalizations–point to specific areas of their work where you notice something is missing. The more specific you are in this step of the process, the easier it will be for your committee members to understand what they can fix. And that will help them to avoid making the same mistake in the future!

3. Offer Examples

When you point out what they could improve, make sure you offer some examples of what they could do instead. Whether it’s a photography tip, a grammar issue or even just replacing some of their vocabulary with more exciting word choices, offering examples will help them better understand the direction you want them to go towards. Unless there’s only one right answer (spelling, grammar, formatting), don’t provide them with only one solution–by offering multiple options, they’re more likely to understand the feel you’re going for and make it their own, rather than simply copying and pasting your suggestion. These examples mean that when they adjust and resubmit their work, it’s more likely to be right on par with your vision, but still something they’ve done themselves and can be proud of!

4. Have Them Fix It

One of the worst things you can do as a yearbook adviser is correct your committee’s work for them. If they don’t go back and adjust their content based on your feedback, they aren’t given the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. And that makes it much more likely that they’ll just repeat the same mistake over again, leaving you to continue to fix it for them. After they submit the improved work, make sure you also offer praise, telling them (specifically) why it’s so much stronger than their first shot. By showing them that you appreciate their revisions, you’ll make the entire experience a positive one.

From the Yearbook Adviser: What This Looks Like in Action

To give you a better idea of what these four steps look like together, I’ve pulled together a quick example that you can use as a guide for your own constructive criticism comments. Leaving notes on a student’s piece might look something like this:

“Overall, this piece was great! I love how you incorporated the details about Matt’s comeback from his knee injury, and the way you wrote the piece really made me feel like I was in on the action! I do think that we need to add a little more detail to the third paragraph, where you talk about the team’s championship win. For example, you could use the tools we discussed in class about slowing down time to really capture those final moments of the game. Would you mind taking a look at that section, and getting it back to me by Friday?”

You don’t have to get overly long with your feedback, just make sure you call out those four specific points detailed above. You’ll be amazed at how this simple tip will make you a stronger yearbook adviser, and bring a much higher quality to the content that’s turned in for your final book!

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