Another dot in the blogosphere?

Blindspots and feedback 

Posted on: January 26, 2022

The international project I am currently working on requires me to provide feedback on documents. 

One thing I asked the project lead was how blunt I could be. I asked this because a) I recognise the importance of tone during feedback, and b) I believe that it is better to be cruel in order to be kind.

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But my overall concern was that we acknowledge that we all have our own blindspots. These are areas of improvement that are not obvious to us but are clear to others by virtue of them being on the outside.

Thankfully we were on the same page about being direct and clear about feedback. And this connects to two things that happened to me.

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The first was a potential consulting opportunity I had last year. Long story short: I met the interested parties, we had a friendly chat over coffee, and I did not hear from them after that. There was no closure, e.g., we are not interested, we might work together later, etc. I was professionally ghosted!

Some might consider this to be rude. But I attribute this to the fact that the people I chatted with do not operate in the educational arena. So they do not speak the same way or have the same expectations. 

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I contrast that with an interaction I had with a teacher from the US who said I had misspelt a word in my verb wheel for Bloom’s Taxonomy. I pointed out that I was using UK English and we subsequently exchanged several email messages about the joys of being educators. I also created a US English version of the job aid.

The project I am currently working on involves educators or people who have strong associations with education. I think we understand each other more implicitly because we have shared values and language.

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The second event was when I was stopped by a cabbie who needed directions. He did not use a map tool, so I had to resort to verbal directions and hand gestures to describe a route. He wanted to go back the way he came, but I offered him a shorter and better route. I watched him drive off in the right direction.

The similarity of that event to my project is how I was expected to provide feedback with a form. I found this method limiting because I could only answer fixed questions and had to describe which parts of the document I was referring to (just like gesticulating to the cabbie).

I offered to create a copy of the document that I could markup and comment on. This allowed me to highlight the exact phrases and to provide feedback in context. The cabbie equivalent might be us using a map to trace a route or me jumping into the taxi and providing directions. 

This was about providing feedback on a better way to give feedback. Like the cabbie who followed my advice, my collaborators saw the value in receiving my feedback this way. Again, I attribute this to how there was no need to unpack this feedback strategy because we already had shared values and language. 

Rising above: We can avoid our blindspots if we are open to good sources of feedback. But our ability to give and receive is shaped by our expectations and values.

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