[O.C.T.O.B.E.R. IV-16] Double-edge

Thinking about getting feedback? It is quite a double-edged sword, at least for me.

I am very much into honest feedback, whether it be about my teaching, research, a friendship, or other things that are important to me. But, I wanted to talk about the ideas of honesty in feedback.

It is easy to have feedback turn into unabashed praise that is unwarranted, or also to have feedback be ad-hominem unhelpfulness. Either way, these are usually non-constructive, and when I talk with people or give them feedback, I try to avoid these forms.

Constructive feedback, either on a paper, an idea, or a friendship, can have both positive and negative words. When I grade math assignments, I try to provide constructive feedback, which unfortunately is more frequently perceived as negative. (In general, I think that purely positive feedback  is merely an incentive, rather than an opportunity to CONSTRUCT.)

Although I welcome feedback and want people to speak their minds, I often have a hard time with feedback, even when I know what I want. There is that dread of hearing criticism, even when it will help you in the long run.

For example, when I was in school, going from the first to the second draft of a paper was often difficult for me, as I would dread going back over what the teacher / instructor wrote to get me to write a better paper.  This was also true for my drafts of statements for the teaching certificate program at Northwestern. Though the feedback was good for me to consider, I dreaded getting TO that point.

And when I dread something, I often try to stick my head in the sand. I am finding out repeatedly that is a poor defense mechanism!

I think that everyone has a degree of stubbornness and doesn’t want to have to change some of their ways, even when it is presented in a nice way. Of course, part of that may be due to my Asperger’s syndrome, and my resistance to change in routine.

This idea about dread of feedback is salient today–one of my colleagues observed my teaching yesterday, and I get to meet with him at 10:10 today to discuss both his observations, and also some of the feedback that I got from students on a group activity that I did on Tuesday. Therefore, it’s almost like this meeting could be a total flushing of my fears. I know that it will be helpful for me to receive some comments about my teaching, as this will be my first time under colleagual observation at Stout.

Readers, what techniques do you use to avoid the dread of getting feedback?


Today is the sixteenth day of the fourth round of O.C.T.O.B.E.R. That makes two weeks and two days.

Memorial Stadium: 8 days.

Thanksgiving Day: 41 days.

Joint Mathematics Meetings: 82 days.

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