Whatever discomfort teachers experience in handing out grades will likely be exacerbated by the results of a study titled "Tell Me What I Did Wrong: Experts Seek and Respond to Negative Feedback" ("You've Been Doing a Fantastic Job. Just One Thing ..." The New York Times, Apr. 6). Researchers found that beginning and advanced learners react differently to negative comments.
One experiment, for example, showed that students in beginning French classes preferred positive comments, while those in advanced French classes wanted unvarnished comments. The difference is not surprising since advanced students have more confidence in their abilities and are able to handle undiluted feedback. Novice students, in contrast, are hungry for encouragement to confirm their ability.