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Social Capital
Embracing Feedback
Midterm grades will be published Tuesday. This can be a stressful time for students (and parents) as the hard work an individual commits to a class during the first five weeks of the trimester are evaluated in a single numerical average and effort grade. Thankfully, feedback for students at Proctor extends well beyond a numerical grade through our Official Notes system and informal communication among teachers, students, parents and advisors on an ongoing basis.

Helping students understand the feedback given is crucial to the evolution of learners we hope to encourage. The reality is very few of us like to receive critical feedback on our performances. Sure, we love hearing how well we’ve done on a given assignment, and I do not know anyone who does not enjoy having praise lavished upon them for the work they have done. I know I do (so feel free to comment how much you love this blog on the sidebar!).

Critical feedback, though, now that is a different story. It can be hard to hear how your hard work has fallen short of a teacher’s (or boss’) expectations. It can be uncomfortable to hear how you must continue to develop your skills, especially when you feel you have been working incredibly hard to do so already. A fundamental conflict between our innate desire to learn and our desire to be affirmed in our abilities exists and this can be hard to overcome without some coaching.

This recent article published by the Harvard Business Review provides excellent strategies for us to employ during this time in the term when a formal feedback period is upon us. The six pieces of advice below are critical for our students to understand, but equally important for our teachers to take into consideration when offering feedback to students.

1. Know your tendencies
2. Disentangle the what from the who
3. Sort toward coaching
4. Unpack the feedback
5. Ask for one thing
6. Engage in small experiments
(*Read more thoughts on these items under the images to the right)

Ultimately, education is a neverending growth process, just as life is. We never ‘arrive’, rather we must always embrace the learning before us and seek opportunities for growth. A key component of this process is being able to receive feedback in a productive manner. We believe our feedback mechanisms (including midterm grades) help our students receive, reflect and become better learners as a result of the feedback provided.
Strategies that help with receiving feedback include: 1) Knowing your tendencies: This is core to our mission at Proctor as we seek to help students come to understand themselves as learners. Once you know yourself, you can more objectively self-reflect on areas of growth.
2. Disentangle the what from the who: While teacher/student relationships are also foundational to a Proctor education, it is still important to separate the feedback from the person giving the feedback so that personal relationships with teachers remain strong and honest feedback can be provided.
3. Sort toward coaching: The feedback provided students is both evaluative (numerical grade) as well as coaching (This is how you can improve…) and we must help students focus less on the numbers and more on the process.
4. Unpack the feedback: We must help students dig into the feedback provided to make sure they truly understand what the teacher is trying to communicate before the student jumps to conclusions about the comments provided.
5. Ask for one thing: Helping students seek feedback outside of formal evaluation times like midterms is crucial to effectively receiving feedback. Small, bite-size chunks of feedback can be much more palatable than a slew of grades and comments all at one time.
6. Engage in small experiments: Sometimes students will try to implement feedback they receive and not see the results they had hoped to see. This is not a bad thing, but rather another part of the learning process. Try small experiments of implementing feedback so you can better identify which strategies are working and which are not.