Objective: The student will list at least 3 concrete ways to respond to constructive criticism and turn it into a positive learning experience.Estimated time 30—45 minutes
This section corresponds with Module 7 Lesson 4 in the College Bound Transition curriculum resources.
According to Wikipedia, constructive criticism is the process of offering valid and well-reasoned opinions about the work of others, usually involving both positive and negative comments, in a friendly manner rather than an oppositional one. In collaborative work, this kind of criticism is often a valuable tool in raising and maintaining performance standards.
Notice some key elements to this definition:
While most of us don’t enjoy hearing ways in which we can improve, constructive criticism is designed to be positive and used for growth.
|Constructive Criticism||Destructive Criticism|
|Intends to educate||Intends to embarrass|
|Related to the work||Feels like a personal attack|
|Helps build on an idea||Tears down an idea|
|Makes the outcome better||Makes the person feel worse|
|Is intelligent and calculated||Includes rapid-fire and random responses|
|Comes along to help||Tries to take over|
"This video is okay, but you should fix up the one part where the guy talks at the beginning. It looks kind of dumb and pointless."
"What do you mean?"
"I don’t know, something about it looks stupid. Just take my advice and do something different with it!"
"It’s fine the way it is! Just let me work, okay?"
"This video you finished looks great! Could I just give you some advice though?"
"You should cut this one clip a little shorter. I think it goes on for too long and gets boring."
"Done. Yeah, it definitely looks smoother. Thanks for the tip."
High school teachers' criticisms
Communication styles are going to differ from high school to college. In high school, teachers are often less direct (or more gentle) than college professors in their assessment of students’ work. High school feedback might focus on encouraging the student and building the student's self-esteem.
In college, professors do care about students' feelings and self-esteem, but they may blend this concern with more direct assignment feedback. Their feedback is generally straightforward and direct, with the goal of correcting errors or problems with an assignment. They may not mention what the student did well. This does not mean that nothing was done well; it just was not the focus of the feedback. Professors may also be trying to push students to the "next level" of proficiency or ability, which means that even something that is done well may be given feedback on how to improve it even further.
Many college students are unprepared for this kind of feedback, and receiving it may create "culture shock."
How to handle constructive criticism.
Discuss the benefits of constructive criticism with your student. Sometimes constructive criticism may be interpreted as a personal attack if your student doesn’t understand its purpose.
Remind your student that professors are not launching a personal attack by giving them direct feedback. Professors do not have a vendetta against students. They are there for the student. Their job is to make your student a stronger critical thinker, a better writer, and a more knowledgeable person. They have the benefit of experience and perspective to offer quality feedback and advice.
Your student will not improve without hearing where he or she went wrong and how to correct it.
Don’t know what to say? Try this:
"Keep this in mind: Nobody has ever gotten to be the best at anything without getting feedback from other people about how they could improve. This applies to anything from writing a paper to shooting a basketball. It even applies to less tangible things like making life decisions and choosing friends. In everything we do, we need help from the people around us to improve. We cannot see our own behaviors and the things we create in the same objective way that other people can see them."
If a professor has given a lot of feedback on a paper or project, it can be overwhelming to a student, especially if that student has put forth a lot of effort into doing a good job. Encourage your student to pause and take a deep breath, then begin to digest the feedback piece by piece instead of seeing the project as a complete failure. This will help your student to process the suggestions and make changes to become better.
Some criticism may have a big impact on you. It may sometimes be personal, and it often feels personal.
It’s okay to feel hurt, angry, sad, disappointed, stung, surprised, or whatever else.
However, don’t let it
Remember: Nobody’s perfect!
Based on the scenario described below, write a response that details how you would handle the situation. Use the following questions as a guide to write your reflection. Make sure that you are honest with yourself. Remember to include 3 concrete ways that you would process the criticism and 3 benefits of learning to respond positively to constructive criticism.
You have had a crazy week at school. You had two tests, one group project, and one paper due within the same week. On top of that, you work 12 hours a week, and your roommate has been sick. Even though you prepared in advance for all this work, you have still felt overwhelmed. You feel like you put a lot of effort into making sure you did your best work on the paper, but when you got the paper back, you received a C, and it’s covered with red corrections that are blunt and, in your opinion, very picky.
When your student is finished writing the reflection, give it a read and offer some constructive criticism. It may also be a good idea to discuss some of the responses your student included. Be sure to look for 3 concrete ways that your student would process the criticism and 3 benefits of learning to respond positively to constructive criticism.
Objective: The student will list at least 3 concrete ways to respond to constructive criticism and turn it into a positive learning experience.
If so, congratulations!
If not, you may want to review the constructive criticism materials and discuss them with a parent or family member.
The following links can provide a deeper understanding of receiving constructive criticism: