Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Giving and Receiving Feedback

We all crave feedback with questions like: "How am I doing?", "Was that OK for you?", "How can I do better?", and one I get a lot: "Where did I lose marks?". Feedback is an important part of learning - it's important to take tough feedback on the chin as well as enjoy good feedback. For my part I give a lot of feedback to students and it is easy to give good feedback, but not so easy to give tough feedback.
Image source: Forbes Magazine.
Just this week I read an article by Dr Paul Mooney with some great advice on "The Art of Giving (and soliciting) Feedback". He has five "rules" for to follow for giving feedback successfully:

  1. It must be from an "acceptable source"
  2. The purpose of the feedback must be "developmental"
  3. The message needs to be "clear"
  4. "Medium Security" - compliment where appropriate 
  5. Be "clever" on timing
Feedback must be honest, though I often take the approach of Point Out Positives (POPs) when I have difficult feedback to give (such as for a failed grade) - I try to find good material to talk about first.

But it can be frustrating when you receive conflicting feedback. Here's are some extracts from two reviews I recently received for a research paper submitted for publication:

Reviewer #1:
"This is a poor and rather pointless paper" and that it was a "dull read".

Reviewer #2:
"This is a great paper" about a "very successful project" and that the reviewer was "looking forward to its presentation" at the conference.

What does one make of this? One is tempted of course to just accept the second reviewer's comments and ignore the first reviewer. But that's not making use of feedback just because I don't like it. Reviewer #1 did not make any suggestions for improvement (which would have been "developmental according to Dr Paul Mooney) - perhaps because he/felt felt there was no possibility of improvement (at least their opinion was an honest one). Conversely reviewer #2 did not makes any suggestions in order to make a "great" paper greater.

Feedback - a tough thing to get right?

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