Writing Center

Feedback Shouldn’t Be The Enemy

Emma Stevens | Senior Writing Center Tutor

Feedback is an incredibly powerful educational tool, but it seems that many have come to develop a negative relationship with it.

Rubrics and red ink seem to haunt today’s students. I understand the fear that accompanies receiving feedback from teachers or professors. Everyone seems to have a story of a trusted adult or a person in a position of authority brutalizing their self-confidence. My mother’s English teacher told her during her senior year of high school that she “needed to go back to freshman year and start over” because she was a terrible writer. Luckily, she did not internalize this feedback, as she went on to get a degree in Communication at Hanover College (which required LOTS of writing). However, that moment when her teacher chose to insult her has stuck with her. She told me this story, recalling it like it was yesterday, even after many years have passed.

That teacher has certainly retired. He is no longer a part of my mother’s life. But, she will always remember his face. She will always remember his name. She will always remember what he said.

The woman that I had look over every book report I wrote and listen to every speech I prepared as I was growing up certainly did not seem like a bad writer to me. Beyond the rose-colored glow of a child’s love for their mother, I know that she is a good writer. She likely always was one. But the non-constructive feedback she was given had power.

Harmful feedback can lead to very serious consequences. It is important for those providing feedback to remember the power that they hold because when that power is abused, serious damage can be done. However, when that power is seen as an opportunity to help someone grow, magical things can happen.

Tutors at the Writing Center are trained to give effective feedback, meaning that though all feedback may not be positive, it will be constructive. During my time here at the Writing Center I have seen people blossom both in terms of confidence and ability after being able to receive feedback in a safe and helpful way. Sometimes this change occurs very gradually, over the course of a semester or a year, but sometimes one session is truly all it takes to open someone up to the many ways that they can learn and grow from feedback.

Changing our perspective on feedback might be one of the best things we can do for ourselves. Though it can be scary, as not everyone understands how to give respectful feedback, opening ourselves up to comments or critiques can help us to develop and improve in ways we never thought possible. Learning to give and receive feedback is an amazing opportunity that is baked into the college experience. I encourage you to seize that opportunity! You never know that could happen.

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