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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-Transforming Knowers

Authored By:

Thinking Collaborative


March 27, 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 four will focus on self-transforming knowers.

A small number of adults, about 9 to 10% of the U.S. population (Kegan & Lahey, 2009), are developing a way of knowing beyond self-authoring and into self-transforming. Self-transforming knowers are able to examine issues from other points of view (“How can I understand this more deeply?”). As both feedback givers and feedback receivers, self-transforming knowers see interconnection as a strength and opportunity (“How can we learn from each other and grow together?”). They appreciate receiving feedback as a chance to grow and develop a bigger version of themselves. They welcome others into their boundaries.

This week when you recognize a self-transforming knower, find their growing edge. They need other people to feel more complete and yet may need guidance in resolving tensions and contradictions around change. Gently support management of the implicit frustrations and tensions of transformation as self-transforming growers study others’ standards, ideologies, and beliefs.

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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