I was listening to NPR this morning and there was an interview with the authors of Thanks for the Feedback, the Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well. I immediately thought of TPEP, since all of us are about to receive the most comprehensive dose of feedback on our teaching than we’ve had in a long, long time. For me it’s been decades since I’ve had a serious conversation with my principal about what I’m doing well and how I can improve as a teacher. The authors of the book, Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, made the point that in the overall scheme of things, the act of receiving feedback is probably more important that the act of giving it. When it comes to TPEP, I completely agree. Much has been made of the role principals play in our new evaluation system. But there’s been little attention paid to our role, as consumers of the feedback.
Feedback, of course, comes in two forms: positive and negative. Most of us have no trouble receiving positive feedback; it’s the negative kind that causes problems. Negative feedback is another term for criticism, and even when it’s “constructive,” it’s still painful. Stone and Heen point out that there’s a paradox surrounding criticism: on the one hand, humans have the need for approval; we want others to think well of us. On the other hand, most of us have a desire to constantly improve at what we do. So while criticism can be used for improvement, which we like, it also makes it clear that someone doesn’t completely approve of what we’re doing, which we don’t like.
Since we’re about to get a hearty helping of constructive feedback, let me make the following suggestions: