Feedback

A conversation started this morning with John Warner (@biblioracle) about remediation, learning, standards, and writing.

I keep thinking about this exchange, in part because my morning involved a heart-to-heart discussion with the oldest (12) grandelf about the necessity of learning to accept feedback and criticism as part of learning. And that this never really stops, or at least it shouldn’t.

I struggle with what I sometimes consider a lack of feedback (certain amount of insecurity revealed in that statement, I know). I don’t have a lot of people tell me “you really should do/say it this way” or “this should change” etc. I do get the occasional “you do good work” or referred to as the “data guru,” which are very much appreciated but don’t tell me much. I also don’t get much feedback on this or the other blog, but I get enough to keep on keeping on.

So, the feedback I rely on, work-wise, falls into four categories:

  1. My employment agreement gets renewed each year. I’m on an annual agreement and they don’t have to keep me around if I get too obnoxious, troublesome, or produce poor work. (This is really important to me – I like working.)
  2. People keep asking me to do stuff. There are some that are getting a bit carried away with this, but if they value my work enough to ask me to do it, that is valuable feedback.
  3. Institutional leaders use my work to support their arguments even when my work is not strictly flattering of their institution. (I am always watching for any citation of SCHEV Research data.)
  4. Legislators push bills that either require me(us) to do something, or that others use my(our) work.

Of course, I am looking what I have just written and thinking, “Didn’t this really start as a conversation about feedback in writing, you know, communication?”

Uhh, yes. But that is what I do. It just happens to be predominantly numerically-based. I’ve always thought of what I do as essentially an art form because of the Web. Until now, I don’t think I have really thought of it as primarily communication. (Sorry, Dad!) Many times over the last 23 years I have described institutional research as a process of teaching people to count to one. That is the foundational practice, but it certainly doesn’t end there because we have to communicate not only the meaning of one, but all the stories and meanings of the stories of every sum and difference of one. (If you have never seen it, The Story of 1 is a nice little documentary.)

So I am wondering how we teach young people what feedback is, how to recognize it, and how to respond to it. Probably need to teach the difference between good and bad feedback. We need to also model this behavior, because I don’t think everyone is.

Be nice. It won't hurt either of us.

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