The Other ‘F’ Word

Featured Image: Directional arrow with the phrase “you got this” on a farm fence against a desert mountain vista

Ah feedback (sigh)

We all like to be told how great we are. Even as kids, a medal, trophy or certificate for participation in soccer, science fair, chess club, dance (you get the point) reminds us how awesome we are, even when every kid gets one. God forbid we recognize special achievement, natural talent, hard work, or dare I say, room for improvement, clear deficiencies, and “not even close!” Why is it so hard to provide and receive honest feedback? Why is this process so difficult?

I recently completed the fourth course in the Provincial Instructor Diploma Program at Vancouver Community College. The course, PIDP 3230 Evaluation of Learning, gives instructors the tools that they need to assess and evaluate learners. I’ve posted all the assignments on my PIDP 3230 page. Assessment and evaluation require feedback. Feedback is a process in which the effect or output of an action is returned (i.e. fed back) to modify the next action; it is used as the basis of improvement.

Assessment and evaluation are acts of judging a person, situation, or event. Judging?!! No wonder giving and receiving feedback is stressful! Instructors have a great responsibility to provide feedback that will lead to overall improvement. The first step is to define goals and outcomes, then provide clear criteria, practice, and preparation prior to assessment.

But feedback is only as valid as the assessment process. Is the assessment based on the knowledge, skills and attitude that were taught in the lesson? And more importantly, is the assessment based on the lesson’s required outcomes?

Then for feedback to be productive, the learner must be open to suggestion. If feedback is critical, it will not be well received. Giving praise where it is due is very important, but an adult expects honesty in a learning environment, and the feedback must be constructive. For example, an instructor can blanket feedback in groups of learners to highlight strengths, and use deficiencies as learning moments. There is no reason to be disrespectful, or brutally ‘single out’ an adult who is trying to improve themselves.

And be positive! Don’t tell a learner that they’re doing something wrong; offer ways that they can build on what they already know. And allow collaboration: we learn from ourselves when we make mistakes, and from our peers just as much as we learn from our instructors.

Sometimes our strengths lie beneath the surface. Feedback should help to bring out our strengths. Always move forward and don’t dwell on errors or negative feedback. “You got this” is my favourite motivational phrase because it implies success and builds confidence!

Screen Shot 2018-02-18 at 5.10.45 PM I took the above photograph at my cousin’s wedding this summer in beautiful Savona, British Columbia. I love that it instructs people to move forward with positivity!

By kathryn truant

Dental assistant and educator!

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