In “Feedback: You Need to Lead It,” Forbes contributor Rich Lyons offers advice to help supervisors build a culture of feedback in the office “where peers feel comfortable sharing, asking for and receiving analysis of their performance, even on a daily basis.” Though workplaces and classrooms differ greatly, several principles apply in both contexts:
Negative feedback shuts down relationships.
Lyons cites Harvard Business school researcher Francesca Gino:
“[P]eople tend to move away from those who provide feedback that is more negative than their view of themselves. They do not listen to their advice and prefer to stop interacting with them altogether.”
As a teacher, if the tenor of your class has changed after you’ve passed back that first graded paper, you’ve experienced this phenomenon. You’ve also seen it when writers disengage if the model draft from a classmate is too far above them or if peer feedback is painfully accurate. Encouraging students to develop a growth mindset about revision can help keep conversations going.
Also, this principle underscores that praise works like a lubricant for the hard, emotional work of changing gears. Helping students offer effective praise to each other as well as giving it ourselves is crucial for keeping everyone engaged. (Beware the compliment sandwich, though. Picky eaters chose the bits they like, and ignore the rest just as this principle suggests.)
Giving feedback happens best when those receiving it feel safe.
The article points out that hostility results from hallway shakedowns and encourages supervisors to pull employees into their offices for quick, informal, private conversations. Teachers use conferences in the same way. The reality of the classroom, however, is that private one-on-ones without eavesdroppers are the exception, not the rule.
At Eli, we encourage instructors “debrief a review” by helping writers set revision goals based on trends and on drafts classmates rated highly. Debriefing is also a time to coach reviewers in how to give better feedback. Because instructors are leading conversations about how to give and use peer comments, the culture of feedback emanates from these debriefing sessions. Talking with students about what helps them feel inspired rather than beaten down by constructive criticism can make these sessions more productive.
Feedback on feedback is important too.
Lyons wraps up the article by encouraging everyone to reflect on the feedback they’ve received:
What is the most valuable feedback I’ve received in the last year? Why was it so valuable? Maybe it’s time to let that person know how valuable you found it.
As any writing center tutor will tell you, the kinds of feedback student writers value may be quite different from the kinds of feedback tutors and instructors value. This conversation about what kinds of feedback help writers improve can illuminate such mismatches. Feedback on feedback can also reinforce the best practices, making sure the culture of feedback is healthy and helpful.
Everything takes practice. And you as a leader need to provide the practice field.
–Rich Lyons, Forbes