Understanding why students benefit from specific feedback, instructions, and praise.

October 21, 2013


Imaging sitting in a class and your instructor starts handing back essays turned in just two days ago. You spent a solid week or two doing research, formalizing a thesis, creating an outline, drafting, and actually editing your work. You tried! At the top of your paper, in classic teacher red ink, you see the words “82 B Over all Good Job!”   There are a few little red marks correcting comma splices and run on sentences; but, besides that, no glaring deficiencies or epic errors. Nothing is majorly wrong, nothing you can really put your finger on. What does a typical student do? They scan the work, shrug a-little and think, “Well, a “B” is a “B” right?” The paper gets slipped into a folder, into the bag, into the past.

Time, passion, and energy was all spent; for what? What was the end goal? Teachers everywhere are screaming something along the lines of “progress”, “development”, maybe even “growth.” That is exactly what an education is all about! But, how can growth happen if a student doesn’t recognize what they did well or how to correct their mistakes.

This is where specific feedback, instructions, and PassTheNotes come into play!

Specificity is a catalyst that ignites change and development in student work. Specific praise, instructions, and feedback are when an instructor explains what to do and where there is room for growth and change. PassTheNotes empowers teachers to get instructions and feedback into the hands of students in an efficient and effective manner.

But first, what exactly is different from “specific” feedback or instructions versus “generic”?

Let’s think about the graded essay from earlier.  The “Good Job!” at the top of the paper seems all fine, well, and good.  But, what is actually so “good” about the paper? Does the introduction to the essay have a hook statement, a well defined thesis statement, a detailed simile, an example of a correctly used ellipses, one long sentence with 10 words or more, two short sentences with 6 words or less, a quote, and five SAT words?  The words “Good Job” may imply all of that; but, students need clarity with what is expected. As humans, we all do!

The team here at PassTheNotes thought long and hard about how to enable communication and annotation features so that teachers can leave this kind of feedback for students.  It all starts in our Communication Tools!

Instead of! Try this!
“Good Job, Timmy!” “Timmy, I dig the way you used personification here to describe way: “Justice is blind and, at times deaf.” How about using another piece of figurative language here in the forth sentence? 


Communication within PassTheNotes is one of the biggest functions of the platform. It is literally everywhere.


Feeds are threaded discussion locations for students and teachers to communicate. Teachers can post a question and students can develop their thought process in conjunction with the rest of the class. They can “feed” off of each other’s thoughts and grow to conclusions together.



Teachers have the ability to annotate on each and every document located in each and every folder.  They can leave themselves notes and comments.  Students have the same ability; they can do their work right on their device, or print the materials to work with a pencil or pen.



All documents and folders have a “Comment” section where teachers can give specific explanations and guidance. Homework can get instructions, students get guided, and teachers have a way to leave memos.


“Chat and Messaging”

There are both chat and message functions for direct communication that are designed to foster development for both teachers and students.

We are here to here to provide you with the tools to enhance what amazing teachers are already doing in the classroom.  Remember to be specific with your instructions and your feed-back and let us here at PassTheNotes handle the rest! Our Training and Support Teams are here to assist in any way we can! Keep the feedback coming!