30 March 2011

Writing Wednesday: Constructive Criticism

Recently, a friend asked if I could give her some feedback on a PowerPoint presentation for her education class. I agreed to help her since I have some experience creating PowerPoints for my Smartboard lessons and have been teaching for about twelve years now (maybe thirteen, I lose count). She uploaded the file and went through each slide of her presentation. I told her that she had wonderful images to go with the information on Gardner's Multiple Intelligences, the topic of the presentation. I also gave a "warm" feedback on the organization of the material and the accuracy of the content. So when I gave her "cool" feedback, this is how the conversation occurred:

"I like that you want to include as much information as possible in your PowerPoint.  But, you have a little too much information on each slide. I think you should pare it down to a few key phrases and you do most of the description or definition of the material."

"Well, I think I have a great PowerPoint," my friend replied.

"I think it's a great PowerPoint too. But, when people see too much info on a slide they tend to shut down. Also, if all the info is on the slide, they can read it themselves. It would be unnecessary for you to be up there. Try to break those sentence-long bullets to just three to six words," trying to sound less offensive.

"Well, it was good and this is what I'm going to present," she states as she yanks the flash drive out the USB port.

"Are you going to show Ms. R., so she can put in sound like you wanted?" I inquired.

"No.  I'm not showing anyone else," she replied abruptly.

"Okay," and I turned my attention towards my lessons for the day.

I often see this behavior with my students. I give them two positive or "warm" comments and one suggestion for improvement. I get resistance because they feel that their work is the best and there is no need for improvement. They are not cognizant of the fact that there is always room for growth. My friend, on the other hand, is much older than I am and should know that suggestions for improvement can help to enhance an individual's work, whether it be a PowerPoint or piece of writing.

As writers, we can always improve in one area or another. As individuals, we must be adaptable. Life is all about change, whether it's a situation or a personal quality within oneself. I feel like I offended my friend but then again, she did ask for feedback. I tried to be as honest and unoffensive as possible. Next time, if there is a next time, she asks for help, I will respectfully decline and refer back to this particular situation.

What are some ways that you give feedback?
How do people in your life handle constructive criticism?
Do you think I could have provided feedback in a way that would have been more constructive?
I'd really like to know.


Amber T. Smith said...

I think your comments were fine, but your friend's attitude sucks. I mean, if you are going to ask for feedback, you should be prepared for the negative as well as the positive. While I love the positive feedback that I get, it is the negative feedback that I need in order to improve, so I always welcome it.

I don't think you could have phrased it any better. You friend obviosuly has issues.

Hart Johnson said...

It's so hard when someone asks for feedback, but what they really want is validation. You know what I think the VERY best thing is for learning to accept criticism? Being on the receiving end--I think my peer review requirements in grad school was where I finally learned to TAKE it.

I've gotten feedback from you a couple time, and I think you are SUBLIME--instead of telling me EXACTLY what to say, you tell me what isn't clear so I can fix it in my own words. Every time I think "I bet Chary's a great teacher'. Some people just aren't ready yet.

Hart Johnson said...

erm... that should say GIVING end... giving feedback to a peer who THINKS their work is done but it isn't... lots easier to then accept yours might also have blind spots...

Cruella Collett said...

Excellent point, Chary. This plays really well into the "Jacqueline Howett debacle" that's been going viral on the interwebs lately (so well, in fact, that I am going to tweet it with that hashtag. I'm trying really hard to fall in love with Twitter *sigh*). Handling constructive criticism is SO important.

Hannah said...

I like to give the compliment sandwich. Two awesome things and one thing that needs to be improved. Seriously, we all have plenty of room for improvement. No one is perfect and if you ASK for help, take what you get. You don't don't have to take all the advice but you can't get mad when you asked for it.

Jenny Milchman said...

Makes me think that your friend should write a novel, Chary ;) S/he wouldn't get your nice, supportive bracketing of the room-for-improvement stuff AND they might create a better product.

Maybe s/he *does* already think they can write a novel.

And not edit it :)

Shaharizan Perez said...

@Tundiel- Thanks, I spoke with another teacher who is a good friend of the individual I gave feedback to and she agreed that perhaps Ms. T. just wasn't ready to hear how to improve the presentation.

Shaharizan Perez said...

@ Hart- I didn't think that maybe what she wanted was validation opposed to actual feedback. I did compliment her on all the aspects I found to be highly effective in relaying the topic. However, if someone asks for feedback, I give them both the warm and the cool. :D

Thanks for the compliment. I'm happy that the comments I gave you were specific and meaningful. :)

Shaharizan Perez said...

@Cruella- I am not familiar with the Jacqueline Howett debacle. I will have to google that. Oh wait, it's on Twitter? I'm not too good with Twitter either but will search for it. Thanks, hon.

Shaharizan Perez said...

@Hannah- You must be a teacher also! :) I also give the compliment sandwich and I try to make it as meaningful as possible. I think next time I will just try the validation approach that Hart suggested and then maybe ease into the areas that could be improved.

Shaharizan Perez said...

@ jennymilch- I suppose that would be an interesting approach to the world of hard knocks! I don't know, perhaps I will refrain from providing feedback to her for a while. I'll wait until she's more receptive. :D

I Must Be Off said...

I've been a teacher in Germany for 16 years, and I've found that I can give direct criticism to my students with absolutely no worries.

I've also been involved in writers' groups for a few years. Writers can be touchy. It's always important to find out what type of critique the writer is used to. I've found with most of the writers I've become close to, I don't have to hold anything back. I don't have to begin by digging up something nice to say (if there's nothing nice to say). And that's what I want as well. Recently I sent a short story to my mother (a writer) for a critique. She hated it, and now I'm writing a better story. And that's the aim, right?