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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: Socializing Knowers

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Thinking Collaborative


March 13, 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 two will focus on socializing knowers.

While socializing knowers have developed greater capacities for abstract thinking and relating than instrumental knowers, socializing knowers are other-focused and make meaning by taking in feedback from others. They base their value and their performance on what others think of them. (“If that’s what you think of me, then that’s what I think of me.”). Socializing knowers are concerned with maintaining relationships and may need support developing their own ideas (“What do you want me to do or know?”).

This week when you recognize a socializing knower, find their growing edge. Invite them to express their own beliefs and then paraphrase their deep structure. Since socializing knowers orient strongly to the human qualities of a relationship (e.g. kindness, care), it is important to acknowledge and attend to these qualities when giving feedback as socializing knowers need approval to feel complete. Help them focus on their practice, not on themselves. Feedback perceived as negative can be difficult for socializing knowers as they view conflict as a threat to their very core. Support them by modeling and role-playing cognitive conflict.

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.

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