Today, I’m going to teach you how to play a C major chord on the guitar.

With the index finger on your left hand, press down the second thinnest string at the first metal fret. Then with your middle finger, the fourth thinnest at the second fret, and finally, with your ring finger, the second thickest at the third fret.

Go on, give it a strum – congratulations, you can now play a C major chord!

Except without me, the teacher, being able to check, how do we know that? Without me being able to let you know specifically why that clanking sound is happening, there’s very little teaching going on, and certainly no learning.

In a nutshell, this is how assessment for learning works, it’s a constant cycle of continuous assessment that learning is happening, feedback about how to improve it in future, and then acting upon that feedback. It isn’t a ‘bolted on’ element of our teaching practice, it is a fundamental part of it.

For you to improve on your guitar playing prowess, you’ll need some feedback on things that you did well, and some areas to improve – maybe you’re not pressing down hard enough, maybe your wrist angle isn’t quite right, maybe you’re pressing down with the wrong part of your fingers. Me saying to you ‘you need to practice playing a C major chord’ doesn’t quite cut it – I might as well say ‘you need to practice learning the guitar’! And how would that make me look, as a teacher?

At IQBar, that’s where our reviews come in – they aren’t just some superfluous thing we tack on at the end of a lesson, they are almost as important as the lesson itself. Good reviews lead to faster learning, which leads to happy parents, which leads to increased bookings. Sounds good, right? Today we’re going to look at five ways we can make these reviews more meaningful, leading to real and sustained progress for our Breadies.  

1. Mega Vague

‘You need to read more to develop your vocabulary.’

Erm, yeah ok. Any suggestions? Which books? How many chapters? By when? How will you know when I’ve achieved that, oh wise teacher?

We covered SMART targets in a previous blog series, and there is a good reason why we use them. Ensuring that targets are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound means that we can ensure that we avoid the vague, almost meaningless targets like this.

There’s an easy test to see if we have achieved a good target – flip the script. Imagine you’re learning Chinese, Russian or Spanish, and your teacher tells you ‘you need to read more to develop your vocabulary,’ how would this make you feel?

So how do we avoid vague targets?

2. Using Command Words

‘Remember to add ‘s’ to third person verbs when using the present simple.’

The ‘M’ in SMART stands for measurable, and this is a crucial element of a clear, non-vague review. The easiest way of creating a good, measurable target is just to think about the command words you use – in this case, ‘remember.’

Although this is a decent enough reminder, it’s really open-ended, and again, almost meaningless. How much remembering is your Bready expected to do? How will you know when or if it has been achieved?

Other culprits often include things like ‘practice’ ‘try’ and (oh boy) ‘learn’. Today’s SMART target – ‘learn English!’ Hmm.

In the above target, if you changed ‘remember’ to ‘write down,’ how would this change the meaning?

3. Quantifiability

It sounds obvious really, but part of measuring something is being able to attach a number to it. Consider the example ‘in future, be more punctual.’ This is far more achievable if, for example, a specific amount of time is attached– ‘wake up ten minutes earlier every day.’

In our teaching context, these could look something like:

‘Write down three sentences in the present simple, using third person verbs with ‘s’

‘Play a C chord without that weird clanging sound three times.’

4. Professional Image

Remember, your reviews are your mark of professionalism. They are read by Breadies, parents, and other external stakeholders. Their importance really cannot be overstated, and that’s why it’s really important to spend time crafting them. Don’t make these mistakes!

  • Spelling or grammatical errors
  • Very little detail about the lesson
  • Generic, meaningless comments
  • Writing about the wrong Bready
  • Writing about the wrong lesson

Teachers are seen as knowledgeable, professional, and trustworthy, especially in certain cultural contexts, so it’s important that we maintain this perception through our reviews. This brings us on to:

5. Know Your Stuff

Leading on from number 4, this is really important. If your review contains some really weird, unnatural modelling of English, or even worse, you mix up your grammatical points, this can cause big problems!

Imagine the situation – your review goes into a lot of detail about ‘remembering to use the present simple for actions in progress right now.’ Of course, this this an incorrect labelling of the tense, and it should be present continuous. Not only is this incredibly confusing for your Bready, but if your Bready’s parents have some knowledge of English and spot your error, this can quickly lead to doubts about this teacher’s professional knowledge and skills. This is why it’s really important to refresh your subject knowledge and pedagogy through CPD, and maintain that professional image at all times.

So to sum up, reviews are incredibly important – they are as much part of the learning process as effective lessons. There we have it, 5 ways you can improve your reviews. Let us know what you think!