I often hear teachers talk about “correcting” papers. What does that mean? What does it imply? If I were to “correct” my students’ work they turn in, it suggests there is something wrong with what they have done, and it is my job to point out their errors. “Correcting” student work reinforces an external locus of control. The “teacher” is the fount of all knowledge, and it is the students’ task to fall in line with what the teacher deems correct.
I ascribe to a constructivist philosophy of teaching. It is my job to work alongside my students to help each member of the learning community (including me) clarify and perfect practice. We have guides – a literature base, research, mentors, and each other – to provide insight into our work. This insight helps us reflect on our practice, what is working and where we need additional input. Rather than “correcting” my students’ work, it is my job to enter onto dialog with my students. I can provide feedback, I can ask questions, I can comment. In short, I enter into a professional conversation with my students. This conversation honors their thinking, and helps hone their own insight into ways they might grow in their work. The work remains their work rather that work done for the teacher – a critical difference.
Language and semantics might seem trivial. But if we endeavor to equip our students with an internal locus of control in which they have the means to critically reflect on their own learning, a slight shifting in our language impacts our own attitudes, which in turn, will impact our students. It is important for teachers to be vigilant in how they think and how they speak. Our students hear our words and read the nuance. In the end, it is this nuance that can speaks the loudest.