Updated: Sep 3, 2021
The ability to communicate through writing is a skill that is developed through practice. However, practice alone is meaningless if there is no 'constructive' feedback.
English answer papers are generally evaluated by giving marks or grades based on which the student deduces the quality of one's performance and the teacher ascertains the level of understanding. Large numbers in classrooms makes it impossible for teachers to provide written assignments every week or at least once in two weeks and give constructive feedback for every written assignment.
"Good" or "V. Good" or "Can do better" is barely useful in helping the student to move forward. Constructive feedback is essential for progress.
A write up written by a student might be well written. Knowing what makes the write up good from a reader's point of view is crucial in any student's progress. This information re-enforces the fact that one's approach is working and one is able to convey the intended message well to the reader. This however leaves the question, "How do I move to the next level?" The same is true of the "Can do better" feedback. This feedback can leave a student feeling helpless, simply because there is no indication of "what needs to be done to do better." - What is lacking, what aspects need work and how to make the change, are important pointers that are required for progress.
Writing is not only about creative writing. It is about expressing oneself and to share what one knows.
Our evaluation systems involve a lot of writing across subjects. A student who has a good understanding of a subject may not be able to score marks simply because one is unable to write what one knows clearly in the answer paper. This makes writing a chore or a daunting task and hence any practice exercise to enhance writing ability is frowned upon as the fear of judgement creeps in. This then becomes a vicious circle trapping the student even further.
Diversifying writing assignments to build self confidence
Every student has some strengths and writing assignments can be fine tuned to highlight those strengths. For instance a child who is very good with building and loves building new things could be encouraged to write an instruction sheet telling someone else how to build a structure or item that he or she has built. Similarly, a child who loves cooking or baking could be encouraged to write a recipe. These kind of assignments take away the pressure from writing and re enforces the fact that writing is a means of communication. To be able to communicate to someone about what one is good at goes a long way in building self confidence and in the process effectively eliminates any negative association with writing as an activity.
Once a positive association is created with writing, students must gradually move to other types of writing and experiment freely. Every step of the way, if they can be provided constructive feedback- highlighting aspects that relay the intended message with an impact and aspects that need work along with tips, is important in terms of external support. Writing overtime becomes a second nature and the student begins to adopt an equanimous perspective of both positive and negative feedback as a means to move to the next level.