What can writers do to make the feedback experience more productive?

What can writers do to make the feedback experience more productive?

Whether feedback comes from a teacher or a classmate, a supervisor or colleague, the most important thing we can do is critically engage with it.

Does that mean we have to agree with the feedback?

No. In fact, there might be good reason to disagree with the feedback. But simply accepting all suggestions is no more helpful than rejecting all of them.

We should always be asking ourselves, how can this suggestion help me reach my goals? Being clear about one’s own writing goals, understanding who our audience is, and then thinking about the feedback we received in light of those goals is what critical engagement with feedback means.

How do we know if we are critically engaged?

To better understand the difference between critically engaging with feedback, and simply accepting or resisting it, let’s take a look at some actual student responses to feedback. To sort through the responses, imagine a graph:

Accepting feedback diagram

Each quadrant of this graph represents a different response that writers might have to feedback from either experts or peers. Let’s look at what each quadrant represents:

  • Uncritical Acceptance: adopts all of the suggestions that are made without question
    • Example: A student receives feedback from her teacher on a paper, and incorporates all the suggestions into her work on the grounds that this will get her the best possible grade.
  • Uncritical Resistance: reject without question all of the suggestions
    • Example: A student refuses to even look at the feedback on her paper because she feels the instructor has been rude to her or is just wrong.
  • Critical Acceptance: adopt specific suggestions because they help us connect with our goals
    • Example: Feedback from an instructor causes a student to wonder how she can make a key point in her paper clearer to her audience.
  • Critical Resistance: decline specific suggestions because they do not address our writerly goals
    • Example: A student receives feedback from her instructor, but chooses not to adopt the feedback because it doesn’t help fulfill her own vision for the assignment.

Feedback Game

From Jenna's Gateway Eportfolio:

Which of the responses does the following quote represent?

In sum

  • Students who are critically engaged, and make good decisions about how to use the feedback they receive, are most likely to grow as writers because they are thinking about how to achieve their own writing goals.
  • Students are most likely to accept uncritically advice from teachers—thinking that doing whatever the teacher suggests will result in a better grade.
  • People are most likely to be uncritically resistant to advice from peers because they underestimate the value of input from an audience member’s perspective.
  • It is wise to listen to feedback carefully and measure it against writing goals, no matter who is giving the advice.
  • Check out Chapter 1 for more details about critical engagement.

Feedback is most helpful when writers engage critically with it, whether it comes from an expert or a peer, and use it to help reach their own writing goals.