It is hard for most students to accept criticism, but taking feedback well is one of the most important things you can do to be successful in your academic and professional life. In the book, Thanks for the Feedback, Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen offer tips for learning to accept feedback and make the most of it. Inspired by Stone and Heen, I offer five tips to help you get the most out of feedback on your assignments:
1. Ask for help – and be specific
If you know you struggle with a particular task, ask your instructor for advice about how to improve. For example, maybe you know you tend to get off-topic in writing. When you submit your paper, ask your instructor to identify areas in which you strayed from the topic and get tips on staying focused.
2. Tell your teacher how you receive feedback best
Asking for feedback in a way that helps you understand it best will help you succeed. If you tend to overthink written feedback, you could drop in or call in during your instructor’s office hours to clarify comments on an assignment. If you do better with written feedback but are receiving verbal feedback, take notes. Read your notes back to your instructor to make sure you have things right.
3. Focus on a specific item of feedback and work on that
Overwhelmed by a long list of suggestions? It’s unlikely that you will be able to perfect each skill all at once. Choose the one thing you and your teacher identify as the area that will make the biggest difference in your work. Focus your efforts on that first, and then move on to another item.
4. Just try it
You won’t always agree with the suggestions others make about how to improve your work, but don’t let your initial negative reaction to their ideas keep you from trying them out. If a suggestion doesn’t work for you, go back to what worked best, but you’ll never know unless you try it.
5. Give it time
When we’re learning something new, it’s not always easy and our confidence and happiness can decrease. However, when we stick with something challenging through the rough patch, we end up happier and more confident than when we started. This is true for developing your academic skills. It’s stressful to receive criticism and act on it, but it will pay off in the end.
Athletes are not born exceptional. They train, they practice, and most importantly, they receive coaching. Improvement doesn’t happen without feedback. Becoming a better student and preparing to be a professional in your field also requires hard work and frequent feedback. It’s not always easy to accept critical advice on your work, but it will make you stronger.
Tina Shanahan is Assistant Professor of English at Herzing University. She is passionate about her work, her community, and lifelong learning. Follow her on Twitter @TinaTeachesEngl and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/TinaTeachesEngl