Play To Your Strengths and Confront Your Weaknesses: Dealing with Feedback


At the end of the semester, students at my university get a chance to evaluate their courses, professors, and TAs. Being evaluated is, of course, something that happens every day, in every encounter we have. However, we don’t often have a chance to actually know how other people would evaluate us. Actual evaluations can be hard to face, but they provide a unique opportunity to find out what your strengths and weaknesses are according to others. While most, if not all, evaluations should be taken with a grain of salt, don’t cheat yourself of the opportunity to learn and grow through them.

For example, on my TA evaluations, I found out that a semester of deliberately bringing enthusiasm and humor into the classroom had paid off. My students consistently pointed out that my humor “made even boring stuff (like grammar!) fun” and that I was “very approachable”. Getting positive feedback reinforces the value of certain traits you choose to adopt, while getting negative feedback can show you what you still have to work on. One student pointed out that I seemed to “pick favorites”. At first, I dismissed it as one student who probably hadn’t spoken in class. I reassured myself that I didn’t pick favorites, and that while I valued students who participated that didn’t mean that I was picking favorites, necessarily.

When I managed to get past the point of defensiveness, however, I began to really consider what this student was feeling. Okay, so maybe I do favor students who are more actively engaged in the classroom. While this kind of favoritism doesn’t carry over into grading, it may keep students who don’t have an easy time talking in classes from participating in the discussion. How, then, could I improve my ability to make each student feel welcome and valued in my classroom?

So when you get feedback, be deliberate and fair when you consider it. Don’t dismiss negative feedback, even if there’s only one or two negatives in a sea of positives. Try and incorporate what others are saying into how you project yourself; if the feedback doesn’t match how you want to be perceived, then change! This same mentality goes toward when you’re trying to process feedback on an essay. Take the time to read each comment, whether it’s praising something you did well or pointing out something that needs work. The grade may feel like the most important thing on that paper, but the most valuable thing is the feedback you receive.

What’s some of the most valuable feedback you’ve ever gotten?

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Filed under Academic Advice, My Experiences

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