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How to take teacher feedback: 5 strategies to make it work for you 

At a glance

  • Teacher feedback is instrumental in shaping students’ learning experience and inspiring academic growth throughout their education.
  • As more adult students opt for distance learning models, new challenges and opportunities arise in the virtual classroom when receiving feedback from a teacher.
  • Adopting a growth mindset, seeking clarification and focusing on the steps needed to improve are some strategies for taking teacher feedback positively.
  • Explore more than 100 online programs at University of Phoenix, where teachers, called instructors, average 29 years of work experience in the field they teach!

We’ve all been there. A paper you thought you perfected comes back with a less-than-perfect grade. Or a presentation you give earns you more constructive criticism than rave reviews from your teacher.

Truth, as the saying goes, hurts.

But while negative feedback from a teacher can be hard to take, it’s crucial for shaping a student’s learning experience and inspiring academic growth.

That means no matter how tempting it may be to dismiss a bad grade or critical comment as “not fair” or “not true,” it can benefit students to really consider how the feedback can help them develop within their course or program. 

This is especially true (and challenging) with the rise of distance education. According to a report from McKinsey & Company, adult students are increasingly opting for distance learning. While the virtual classroom offers more convenience, it also has more room for misunderstanding. When space and time separate a student and teacher, it’s not always easy to know how to take feedback. 

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5 strategies to take teacher feedback effectively 

So, what’s the secret to turning a “bad” comment from a teacher into a helpful learning opportunity? For starters, keep your emotions out of it. Constructive commentary from an educator can foster personal growth if you let it. From there, you can leverage one (or some!) of the following five strategies.

1. Adopt an education growth mindset

One of the fundamental principles for accepting feedback is cultivating a growth mindset, which helps students develop resilience and persistence in the face of challenges or setbacks in their education.

When a teacher  identifies an area to improve, students can consider it an opportunity to refine their abilities instead of a reflection of their worth. Setbacks and mistakes are an inherent part of the learning process, and progress requires persistence and perseverance. This mindset can help you bounce back from setbacks, learn from mistakes and continue making progress.

What does that look like? Consider the following: 

  • Understand that feedback is not a personal attack but an opportunity for improvement. 
  • Embrace the belief that intelligence and abilities can be developed through dedication and effort. 

Ultimately, a growth mindset lets you view feedback as a valuable tool for progress rather than a criticism of your abilities.

2. Listen actively and reflect

When teachers share their assessments and observations, actively listen to their comments and take them to heart. Active listening means not only hearing what’s being said but also processing the information intentionally so the insight can be implemented later. 

To do this, try to avoid becoming defensive or dismissive. Instead, reflect on the feedback and consider its underlying purpose. Analyze the areas your teacher highlighted for improvement and identify specific actions to address them. Reflecting on feedback allows you to maximize your learning potential.

Kimberly M. Underwood, PhD, MBA, University Research chair at University of Phoenix, says, “Anger, confusion, defensiveness and hurt are all natural, human reactions to feedback, so it is important to acknowledge your feelings. Once you have done so, reflecting on the feedback, using emotional intelligence, can help you process these emotions by allowing you to think about what you can improve and future actions to better develop in these areas.”  

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3. Seek clarification

Sometimes, constructive criticism feels less constructive and more like just plain criticism.

When comments from your teacher seem vague, misdirected, overly critical or unfocused, don’t give up on finding their value. Instead, reach out to your teacher to gain some level of shared meaning around the feedback. This will help build rapport, effectively focus your efforts and align your understanding with your teacher’s expectations.

Asking questions also demonstrates your commitment to your education and your desire to improve. And you don’t have to put yourself on the line to express your motivation. “If students feel intimidated by the face-to-face process, asking clear, clarifying questions about feedback within an email is also appropriate,” says Underwood.  

By understanding the teacher’s expectations and specific areas for growth, students can develop targeted action plans. Ask for suggestions on how to address the feedback, request additional resources or seek guidance on specific techniques to enhance your skills. This tailored approach increases your likelihood of making progress in the desired areas.

4. Focus on strengths and areas for growth

Feedback often encompasses both positive remarks and areas for improvement. While it’s important to learn from criticism, make a point to also recognize and appreciate your strengths. These accomplishments can become your foundation for growth.

Here’s an example: Getting a paper returned with the feedback “Needs more data" may initially feel like your efforts fell short. However, if that’s the only flaw, it means the framework of your piece is solid and your writing is clear; it just needs more citations to validate claims made. 

By acknowledging your strengths, you can approach feedback with a balanced perspective.

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5. Take action and follow up

Feedback is most valuable when it leads to tangible changes in performance. Once you have absorbed the feedback, develop an action plan to implement the suggested improvements. Break down your action plan into achievable steps and set specific goals. This allows you to clarify any doubts or seek further guidance, ensuring that you’re on the right track.

Regularly review your progress and seek additional guidance from your teacher if needed. Taking action and following up shows respect for the teacher’s expertise and acknowledges their role as a mentor in your educational journey. It also fosters a constructive classroom learning environment and nurtures a relationship built on trust and mutual understanding.

By adopting a growth mindset, actively listening and reflecting, seeking clarification when necessary, focusing on strengths and taking action, you can leverage feedback as a powerful tool for academic and personal development.

Remember, feedback is not meant to discourage you but to propel you toward excellence. Embrace it as an opportunity to grow and become the best version of yourself.

Resources and assistance at University of Phoenix

Students may be online at University of Phoenix, but they’re not alone. Here are just a few of the resources available to make the educational journey smoother.

  • Center for Writing Excellence: Get help tailored to your degree level along with 24/7 access to writing resources.
  • Center for Mathematics Excellence: Explore free tutoring and refresher courses designed to remove the anxiety from math.
  • Academic counselors: Offering academic advisement and individualized support, academic counselors can step in and show you the way during those moments in your degree program when you need extra guidance.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kaleigh Moore is a full-time freelance writer and consultant specializing in business and software. Her work has appeared in Forbes, Vogue Business, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur and elsewhere. She is also a frequent speaker at conferences and universities and co-hosts a podcast on running a freelance writing business.

 

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