Quality Feedback

The summer season is always a time when I like to sit down and really reflect on the previous year and to begin brainstorming ideas for the year to come. Say what you want about teachers having their summers off, but alongside a very strong need to just sit,  recharge, and take some time for me, I find it to be a necessary component in being able to hit the restart button for a new year with fresh ideas and improved practices.

One thing we realized needed some teaching this past year was the art of giving quality feedback. This is not a skill that comes naturally for most, nor is it always easy to provide the kind of feedback we feel is helpful for fear of being too critical or offending the other person. Feedback should be critical, though. It’s how we improve. Sometimes an extra eye or ear is exactly what we need to strengthen ourselves and our work, not to mention the strength we build with one another in being able to provide respectful, honest ideas.

An idea I shared with my students is one I found online somewhere that describes four different types of feedback using the four suits in a deck of cards. Hearts and diamonds (the red suits) are both positive feedback while spades and clubs (the black suits) are both critical. I try to avoid the word “negative” because, although it is feedback regarding something the reviewer does not necessarily like, that word just has “bad” connotations attached to it. Maybe I’m wrong here. Maybe you have a better idea for a replacement word? Let me know if you do…

The hearts and spades both represent “fluffy” feedback as I call it that lacks real substance. It might be something like, “This is really good.” That’s a positive comment, and we all love to hear positive comments like that about ourselves and our work, but it doesn’t really do much to help us build on what we have or to be able to replicate the “goodness” in the future. Likewise, the statement, “This needs more work,” is a critical statement that doesn’t really offer much in terms of steps for improvement. So we practice offering diamonds and clubs – feedback comments that really tell a person what it is that is good and what, specifically, needs improvement. Statements like, “You used really great eye contact while delivering your speech” or “I think your introduction could use a stronger hook to grab your audience’s attention right away” help a person to understand exactly what is great and not so great about their work and allows for them to move forward purposefully.


So, as I sit in my living room on this gloomy Monday morning on my second week of summer “reflect and recharge” time, I come to you for feedback. What do you like or dislike about this blog? How often do you wish the blog was updated? What kinds of things do you want to read about as we move into our fourth year with the ARCTIC Zone? More of something? Less of something?

I welcome any and all ideas, suggestions, advice you can offer. The one thing I ask is that you offer diamonds and clubs … because how else do I improve?


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