Defanging feedback by rewriting into action items
September 11, 2018
In light of Carless & Boud’s recent paper on feedback literacy I’ve been trying to reflect on my own feedback literacy. More specifically I’ve been trying to note down what I do when feedback information comes my way. The most common formal feedback information I get is reviewer comments on papers. Here’s what I’ve noticed I do…
- Have an immediate affective response. This is usually some sort of hurt, though I’ve also felt anger, elation, stress, pride, shame and confusion.
- Hide the comments so they can’t hurt me.
- Make a todo note to give the comments a proper look later on.
- [time passes, often to the point where I now have to look at the comments again]
- Experience the same hurt from step 1 all over again.
- Use the comments to improve my work.
Listing this with numbers is probably not all that honest – there’s a lot more going back to step 1 than this suggests. It’s recursive and entangled more than it is linear.
However, I’ve found that when I make my first step rewriting the feedback comments into actionable todos for myself that this stops me from needing to affectively engage again. In rewriting I’m making them tasks I assign myself rather than critique – I’m ‘defanging’ the feedback. The emotional charge is mostly gone and I’m left with a set of todos.
There are probably a few dangers to this approach. Firstly I might conveniently misinterpret feedback comments into the sort of todos that I’d like to do. Secondly, in stripping them of the emotional charge I might be robbing myself of the potential benefits of emotional motivation. But in practice this approach serves me well when I remember to do it.
I’m not sure if this is an incredibly mundane blog post (perhaps rewriting feedback comments is really common and I just missed the memo?), so I actually had it saved on my computer for a month or so. However at the CRADLE-DER feedback symposium in Prato I’ve been encouraged to engage in intellectual streaking, so here it is!
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