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Desert Highway
Thoughtful writing authored and shared by members of of the Thinking Collaborative community to support others on the journey.

Sustaining the Journey

Developmental Approach to Feedback and Collaboration: Self-Authoring Knowers

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Thinking Collaborative


March 20, 2017

For the month of March, the Sustaining the Thinking Collaborative Journey will explore appropriate ways to provide feedback based on the work of Ellie Drago-Severson and Jessica Blum-DeStefano. Drago-Severson and Blum-DeStefano propose that “feedback for growth” intentionally differentiates feedback based on a person’s “ways of knowing” that is dependent on that person’s level of adult development.

They propose that adults make meaning in qualitatively different ways and that feedback should be offered how the receive can best hear it, learn from it, take it in, and improve their instructional and leadership practice as a result. The four different developmental systems, or ways of knowing are: instrumental, socializing, self-authoring, and self-transforming. Week three will focus on self-authoring knowers.

Unlike socializing knowers, self-authoring knowers no longer look outside themselves for validation. They have strong ideologies and values and hold an internal capacity to prioritize their own perspectives about their feelings and their relationships (“How does this fit with my goals and my vision? and Am I living and working up to my full potential?”). They can weigh other people’s expectations in light of their own and can objectively reflect on both. When receiving feedback, they decide for themselves what they are doing well and what they want to improve. Conflict is viewed as a normal part of collaboration. And yet, self-authoring knowers may need help with bringing together divergent perspectives and may struggle taking in ideas that are diametrically opposed to their own.

This week when you recognize a self-authoring knower, find their growing edge. Encourage them to explore new and different values and ideologies. A self-authoring knower feels support when they share a relationship with someone they respect. Offer them opportunities to voice their own opinions, offer suggestions and critiques, and formulate their own goals.

Drago-Severson, E. & Blum-DeStefano, J. (2016). Tell me so I can hear: A developmental approach to feedback and collaboration. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

Drago-Severson & Blum-Stefano –

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