Learning and Growing from Instructor Feedback

hillaryAt Walden, you receive ongoing feedback from your instructor on your discussion and assignment submissions. How do you usually respond to feedback in professional or academic situations?

Typical responses from those who are uncomfortable with feedback include avoiding it altogether, getting defensive, and feeling embarrassed and/or emotional. The problem with these reactions is that they get in the way of actually embracing the criticism and growing from it. They don’t allow the individual to reap the benefits of the feedback itself.

Remember: It’s Good for You

Instructor feedback—both positive and constructive—has clear benefits for the learner. Through such feedback, you can:

  • Look at yourself (or your work) through someone else’s eyes. Rarely are people able to step outside of themselves and see what others see. Understanding what you project to others leads to better self-knowledge, not only in academics but in your professional and personal life as well.
  • Know if you’re on the right track. Ultimately, you are at Walden to learn. Qualitative feedback expresses how well you are meeting the learning objectives with more clarity than a numerical grade.
  • Get advice from an expert. Your instructors at Walden are leaders in their field. In the future, you probably won’t have such direct access to expert scholar-practitioners. Soak up their knowledge and experience while you can.

Accessing Feedback:

The first step in learning and growing from feedback is knowing where to find it. Follow these tips after your instructor grades any discussion, assignment, or other assessment item:

  • Check all feedback locations. At the beginning of the term, your instructor may explain where they typically include feedback in the classroom. If not, keep in mind that instructors can leave feedback in three places: the Feedback box, the rubric, and—in the case of assignments—within the submitted document. Make sure that you click on all of these. If an instructor has included a hyperlink in the Feedback box, click on it. The link may lead to detailed feedback in the form of text-based or video comments. If there is no hyperlink, check for assignment comments in Blackboard’s inline grading tool. The comments will appear directly on your screen.
  • Access feedback even if you scored well. If you see a high grade on your assignment, you might just assume that there is nothing to work on. However, your instructor may have provided minor corrections or tips to use in future assignments—along with the well-deserved praise.
  • Contact Student Support if you have trouble retrieving any feedback in your courses.

Reading and/or Viewing Feedback:

Once you’ve accessed the feedback, spend some time exploring it.

  • Proceed with an open mind. If you approach feedback in a defensive manner, you are apt to discount important points made by your instructor. One way to achieve this “open mind” is to pretend that the comments are not directed toward you but instead are for another student.
  • Choose the right time. You might find that it’s easier to look at feedback when you are not stressed by the day’s events or by other demands on your time such as dinner preparation or childcare.
  • Skim and take a break. Go for a walk, play with your children or grandchildren, read, or watch TV. Then return to the comments and examine them more in-depth. This breaks up the activity so that you have time to process; the feedback may not seem so overwhelming.

Acting on Feedback:

  • Make a plan. After viewing the comments, plan how you will apply these comments to the draft you are working on or to future assignments. You might want to categorize or prioritize the feedback. What is most important to work on now, and what can be done later? What is a quick fix, and what needs more in-depth consideration?
  • Ask questions. Ideally, the feedback giving and receiving process should be a dialogue. Contact your instructor via e-mail if any feedback is unclear. Be specific about which comments need clarification.
  • Revise the document. If you need to revise and resubmit the current document, carefully go through the entire draft and incorporate your instructor’s corrections and suggestions.
  • Record. If you are not revising the current document, you should still pay attention to feedback. Keep a journal in which you record specific content and writing tips from your instructor. (For example, if you described a public health concept inaccurately in your assignment, you could note it along with a correction.) Then review the journal before you write another paper or discussion post so the error does not happen again. The Writing Center has created feedback journals you can use for this purpose.

Business team and dialog boxesAccepting feedback on your performance is a necessary part of being a student. Embrace the feedback and take a chance at becoming a better writer, scholar, student, and person!

Additional Feedback Resources From Your Walden Writing Center:

Hillary Wentworth has been mentoring Walden writers since 2010 in Walden University’s Writing Center and Academic Skills Center. She holds a BA in English from the University of New Hampshire and an MFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

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