The Power of Feedback

Posted by on November 14, 2014

Stacy Severson, campus director at Minnesota School of Business-Richfield, recently gave a presentation to fellow educators at the annual Minnesota Career College Association conference on the power of feedback. What she had to say applies to all of us, whether we are providing or receiving feedback.

Stacy Severson speaks at MCCA conference

Stacy said that an instructor provides feedback to students to inspire them to think about what they have done and how to improve. If the person receiving the feedback does not feel comfortable, however, the feedback is unproductive.

Stacy explained that the purpose and value of feedback is to provide clear indications about performance achieved and performance expected.

“Feedback is a critical tool for sustaining and improving performance,” Stacy said. When it comes to our students, feedback can support achievement and motivate classroom activity.

One of the first tasks when providing feedback is to create safety. As Stacy stated, “Don’t be mean-spirited, be sensitive and do it in a safe place.” The next steps are to be positive, be specific, and be immediate.

It’s also important to be firm, but not unkind. “People have a habit of becoming what you encourage them to be, not what you nag them to be,” Stacy said. Be genuine, and most importantly, look for the good, not just the bad.

Stacy described the “open-faced sandwich” concept of providing feedback. Using this method, one shares a specific event, behavior, or performance that is of concern. Next, one explains how this is creating a challenge and a desired behavior change is requested. Throughout, the feedback provider listens and supports the receiver.

“Feedback is a two-way street. You need to know how to give it effectively and at the same time model how to receive it constructively. When you make a conscious choice to give and receive feedback on a regular basis, you demonstrate that feedback is a powerful means of personal development,” Stacy told the crowd.

“Done properly, feedback need not be agonizing, demoralizing or daunting. The more practice you get, the better you will become. It may never be your favorite way of communicating, but it does have the potential to make your workplace or classroom a much more harmonious place to be,” Stacy concluded.

Students and instructors commented on the type of feedback they appreciate.

“I could apply [the open-faced sandwich concept] to students and coworkers. You are making sure you are getting your point across without diminishing it,” Nicole Anderberg, dean of students, said.

“Compliment a lot, ask questions and get on the same page as the person you are talking to. Don’t give negative feedback without giving two forms of positive feedback and state the person’s strengths before any weaknesses. When giving feedback, it’s not what you say, but how you say it. Don’t talk down to people,” Trevor Wicklund, interactive media and graphic design student, said.

“If you are hearing all negatives, you don’t realize what you are good at and you think you are bad at everything. It’s nice to hear what you can improve on, but also what you are doing well,” Bryan Tynjala, game and application development student, said.

“I like my teacher going over my work and telling me that I’ve done well and that they appreciate me being in class on time and every time. I feel like my teachers here are honest and straight forward, but in a nice way. They coach me and offer me opportunities to make improvements,” Lacey Boussalam, business administration student, said.

“As an instructor, you want to be authentic. My students say that I’m at my best when I’m authentic. That means I provide the critical response they are seeking so that they can improve,” Carol Jaeger, instructor, said.

As for feedback on Stacy’s presentation? One attendee had this to say, “Stacy is so well prepared and she took a subject – feedback – that can be scary, and she shined a light on all of its positives.”

That’s some feedback we’ll happily accept!


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