Botany 431 - Physiological Plant Ecology

Giving and Receiving Feedback

Constructive comment is the most significant contribution you can make to another person's learning. To make the effort to give them positive suggestions suggests that you care enough about them to spend your time considering their work and that their work is worth your attention. Everyone can develop their capacity for giving feedback.

Bad feedback stops effective communication. Do you want to receive feedback that was directed at you as a person, that was unhelpful because it did not give direction, that was ill-judged communication because it satisfied the needs of the critic not the needs of the criticized?

Good, supportive, feedback affirms the worth of the person receiving the feedback while offering reaction to the material or activity being commented on. This does not require that only praise be given, but that any critical matters be raised in an overall supportive context in which each party trusts the other.

  1. Offering Feedback.

    All feedback is given in the context of the following message: "I appreciate you and what you have done and whatever else I say should be taken in that context."

    1. Be realistic.
      Make comments directed toward matters about which the person can do something.

    2. Be specific.
      Give sufficient information to identify the areas to which you are referring and have a clear idea of what is being said about those specific areas.

    3. Be sensitive to the person's goals.
      The person's work is produced for a specific goal of which you should be aware and you should give your views while keeping that goal in mind.
      If you offer views in terms of your own goals make that point clear.
      Link your comments to their intentions; listen carefully to what they have to say.

    4. Be prompt.
      There is no point in offering feedback after the recipient has put the work aside and gone on to something else.

    5. Be descriptive.
      Describe your views and do not describe what the other person should feel.

    6. Be diligent.
      Check your response to see that it is an accurate reflection of what you want to say.

    7. Be direct.
      Say what you mean in simple language.

    8. Be consciously non-judgemental.
      Offer your personal views and do not act as an authority. Use comments of the type "I think ---------- when you ----------".

  2. Receiving Feedback.

    1. Be explicit.
      Make it clear what type of feedback you are seeking and if necessary say what kinds you do not want to receive. This will have been made explicit earlier in the activity by you or your group.

    2. Be aware.
      Notice your own intellectual and emotional reactions. If the viewpoint of the other person is at variance with your own, do not dismiss it because it can be important to realize the misapprehensions of others. You can later give feedback to the other person to clarify the situation. This type of interaction could be reported in your journal.

    3. Be silent.
      Refrain from making a response. Do not even begin to frame a response until you have listened carefully to what has been said and have considered the implications.

Other than the medium and the temporal aspect, there is no difference in giving written rather than spoken feedback and there is no difference between responding to written rather than spoken presentations. Written feedback is concrete and slower to prepare, but it can be re-examined. Spoken feedback is more ephemeral and immediate and requires a greater sensitivity by the person giving the feedback.

(This information is mostly derived from David Boud HERDSA Green Guide #5, 1991)

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