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Author: Fulcrum Institute Development Team

Giving and Receiving Online Feedback

When a group is engaged in learning through inquiry, feedback takes place between peers -- between co-learners. The "give and take" of collaboration can be very invigorating, yet for some it is also somewhat intimidating at first -- especially when you are asked to provide constructive criticism on the work of your peers. As you prepare to give and receive feedback to your colleagues, keep the following in mind:

Tips for Giving Feedback

Be specific. In particular, relate your comments to the specifics of your study whenever possible.

Remember that the goal is to improve our work, not to be congratulatory. Be respectful, but also know that if you are too concerned with being "nice," you may deprive your colleague out of valuable feedback and the opportunity to make substantive improvements to his or her work.

We suggest that you use the following process when giving feedback to your peers:

  • Before doing anything else, look closely at the original assignment, including goals, writing prompt questions, examples, and requested categories of information. Jot this information down on a separate piece of paper and refer to it frequently as you read your colleague's work.
  • Read your colleague's work several times -- first to get an overall sense of the piece, then once again with a critical eye for detail. Take notes during this second reading, writing down:
    • unresolved questions that come to mind, places where further clarification would help, etc.
    • a response to any requests for feedback made by the author
    • ideas for feedback in light of the original assignment. Ideally, you will make a direct connection between your feedback, specific aspects of your colleague's work, and the original assignment's goals, directions, etc.
  • As you translate your notes into a feedback message for your colleagues, begin by commenting on the elements of the work you think are strong, then follow with questions about things you think could be clarified, revised, or changed in light of the assignment's goals.

    Be specific, but don't tell the person what he or she "should" do. Remember that ultimately it is your colleague's work -- open-ended questions, observations, and comments will be more constructive than directives.

Tips for Receiving Feedback

  • Think about what kinds of feedback you would like to get from your colleagues. Let them know in advance what you'd like them to comment on -- be as specific as possible.
  • After you get the feedback, take time and mull it over -- comments that you may not like at first will perhaps seem right on target after you've had time to think about it.
  • Remember that, in the words of Larry Porter, "Feedback does not assume that the giver is totally right and the receiver wrong; instead, it is an invitation to interaction." Ask your colleagues for further clarification if you're not sure what they mean, brainstorm ideas with them, debate the pros and cons of your ideas for revisions.
  • Feedback is a gift from the sender to you. We all know how long it takes to read and respond thoughtfully to group members. Even if you don't agree with (or like) the feedback, try to accept it in the spirit in which it was given.
  • It's sometimes scary to get feedback, but if you keep an open mind to the constructive criticism and use it to improve your work, you will find it valuable.