Sunday, October 10, 2021

Seeking Out Feedback

Growth is a never-ending journey. While there is no one best way to get better at what we do, I think we can all agree that feedback is a necessity no matter the path taken. For it to impact practice, it should be practical, specific, timely, and facilitated in a positive fashion.  While we know how important feedback is to our growth, the question becomes how often do we receive it in some form?  I shared the following in a past post:

Feedback can be a catalyst for motivation, engagement, and finding answers to questions or problems. First and foremost, we must be open to it in some form. One way to move the needle is to seek it out from a variety of perspectives. 

If you are not receiving enough feedback to either spark or sustain your growth, how are you seek it out?  I can definitely improve in this area, and I really didn’t think about it much until an experience with Jackson County Schools in Georgia.  One of the site visits took us to East Jackson Comprehensive High School, where I observed one of the best math lessons ever.  In a nutshell, the teacher created a courtroom experience where students dove into the concepts in a relevant way. Various roles were assigned, such as jury members, prosecution, and defense, where the class used evidence to determine whether or not math problems were solved correctly. The teacher was thoroughly immersed in the lesson himself as the judge with a wig and all.  As part of my notes, I wrote that this was an experience students would remember for a very long time.

Even though the lesson was amazing, it was not the best part.  Near the end, the teacher took off his wig and, as a form of closure, asked the students for feedback to improve the activity in the future.  The responses were fantastic and included more challenging problems, finding ways to get the jury more involved during deliberation, and finding ways for all students to report out.  I couldn’t applaud enough the teacher’s willingness to be vulnerable coupled with a sincere desire to improve. To top it all off, this was also a great example of using student voice to personalize the learning experience without technology.

There are so many valuable lessons that each of us can take away from the teacher above related to effective teaching and learning, but also practical ways to seek out feedback and act on it routinely. Here are six ideas to consider:

  1. Seize every opportunity: Don’t wait for someone else to provide you with feedback. If you do, there is a chance you might be waiting for a while. 
  2. Listen intently: After asking for feedback, take in all that is provided to you. Make sure your body language clearly shows that you are paying attention and genuinely care about what is said. It goes without saying that being “present” is vital.
  3. Clarify points: After listening, verbalize what has been suggested to you while using questions to make sure that the points that have been made are clear. Doing so also shows that you were listening.
  4. Be appreciative: If you want honest feedback on a regular basis, people need to know you care. It is also essential to understand that sometimes providing ways to improve to a peer or superior in position isn’t easy for some to provide. By showing appreciation, it sets the stage for others to make efforts to seek you out to engage in feedback conversations instead of the other way around
  5. Write usable points down: You don’t have to agree with everything that is provided to you. Write everything down, process, and then reflect on what has value.
  6. Take action: The value of feedback lies in how it is used to grow and improve.  If it is given and nothing changes, then don’t be surprised if people stop providing it or, worse yet, turn to criticism.

Seeking out feedback is a simple act that anyone can engage in to grow. Always look to seize the moment. The real work begins once you use it to be the best iteration of yourself for those you serve.


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