Perfect Ten Syndrome

PIDP 3260 Professional Practice
Vancouver Community College
Kathryn Truant
April 28, 2018


In, The Skillful Teacher(2015), Dr. Stephen Brookfield discusses “Understanding Our Classrooms” (pp. 27-39). He explains that “the most important knowledge we need . . . as teachers is a consistent awareness of how students are experiencing their learning and perceiving our teaching” (p. 27). Brookfield hands out a “Critical Incident Questionnaire” (p. 34) to his students at the end of each week, and asks for anonymous feedback. He confesses,

“I find myself repeatedly frustrated by not achieving an unblemished record of expressed student satisfaction for every week of the course” (p. 38).


I want to begin by saying how brave I think Brookfield is, and how much I admire him for soliciting evaluation from his student’s weekly. Most specifically, I respect how much value he places on his learner’s responses. Brookfield confesses that he is frustrated by getting less than perfect feedback. He realizes that his frustration is irrational, and he refers to it as the “‘Perfect-Ten’ syndrome” (p. 38). I identify with Brookfield because it is hard not to take things personally, especially when a lot of thought and preparation goes into delivering a lesson.

I instruct dental assistants entering the specialty of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery on a one-on-one basis. I only have one classroom experience to draw from while reflecting on student satisfaction on this scale. An instructor at Okanagan College’s Dental Assisting Program afforded me the recent opportunity to teach a class. The 60-minute lesson on a topic that I am passionate about (Asepsis in the Dental Office) was well-planned, and practiced. I was nervous and excited. I videotaped the lesson in preparation for my PIDP Capstone project, and I was also looking forward to reviewing and evaluating my ‘performance’ afterward. Prior to the lesson, I wasn’t aware that I was going to be formally evaluated by the class as well.


I received perfect scores from all 20 students! I felt like Sally Field did when she won an Academy Award for best actress in 1984 (the film was Places in the Heart) and uttered this now famous phrase: “You like me! Right now! You like me!” (Oscars®, 2011). Sally Field’s speech reflects a basic human need: to be liked and accepted. After my lesson, I would have been very disappointed in myself, had I not received perfect scores from my learners. Like Brookfield, I want my learners to think that my lessons are perfect!

A person’s inherent and instinctual need to be perfect stems from wanting to achieve mastery. In his 2009 book entitled Drive, author Daniel Pink explains that “mastery is impossible to realize fully,” and that “it’s a source of allure. Whynotreach for it?” (p.125). So, as irrational as Brookfield admits seeking perfection is, I believe that ‘Perfect-Ten’ syndrome is what drives him and what will drive me to seek feedback and improve. In his insightful book, What the Best College Teachers Do (2004), Professor Ken Bain talks a lot about the significance of the evaluation of teaching. He explains, “excellent teachers develop their abilities through constant self-evaluation, reflection, and the willingness to change” (p. 172). I realize that I am not going to achieve perfection every time I get in front of the classroom, so I need to view potentially negative feedback as formative, and develop ‘thick skin’[1] so that I don’t take constructive comments personally.


Cultivating my professional practice as an instructor includes soliciting honest feedback from my learners. I want them to be part of the process of improving my instruction. I plan on using Fenwick and Parsons’, The Art of Evaluation (2009): “Tool Box 7 – Using Participant Course Evaluations” (pp. 234-238). Tool Box 7 clearly outlines soliciting participant feedback with written forms, but advises that these forms must be followed up with discussion, and “don’t wait until the end of the course to use them” (p. 238), as applied by Brookfield. I also agree with Brookfield that accepting anonymous surveys will foster honest feedback; I want to trust that what my learners are saying is what I need to hear. Finally, I look forward to creating my own personal Feedback Instrument Documentto ‘enhance’ my instructional practice (PIDP 3260 Assignment 2), and I will continue to video tape lessons for self-reflection and for reference. 

[1]thick skin: not easily upset or offended by criticism (Merriam-Webster, n.d.)

@ Please refer to my Resources page for works cited