Clear the first hurdle!

Then we can harvest the real benefits of feedback

Paradoxically, educators are apprehensive about receiving feedback from their students whilst, at the same time, needing to have their work validated by those who benefit from it – their students.

Apprehension arises from two key concerns: student feedback has no value, and, second, it will be used against me.

The first arises from several beliefs: one is, that students do not have a valid view of teacher performance and respond emotionally - they will provide more positive feedback to friendly teachers and less positive feedback to effective but less friendly teachers.  Another is the educator’s sense of superiority, in that they know better what is good for a child so that any feedback comes from a position of lesser knowledge and understanding.  A final reason is a throwback to the belief that students will try to “get at” the educator if given the chance, giving abuse and put downs rather than anything that might be helpful.

In practice, students are honest and insightful with a vested interest in having the best learning environment.

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The fear that any feedback that is collected in a systematic way will be used by someone else to evaluate or judge the educator is a very legitimate fear, as education has been built on summative assessments to sort students into different groups, pass-fail the most basic.  A further fear, often thought if not explicitly expressed, is the fear that an educator’s positive self-view will not match their students’ view – no one likes the shock that such dissonance can trigger.  Yet, it is from a solid foundation that we can grow.

Combine these concerns together – student feedback has no value and, worse, it will be used to unfairly judge me - and we have a powerful explanation for both conscious and unconscious apprehension.  With this perspective in mind, it is not surprising that the practice of collecting feedback from students in a wholesale, systematic way has not been widely adopted.

To get to the point that feedback is a validation of an educator’s efforts requires time and a determined effort to put a fair and safe process in place.

John Corrigan