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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

Mentoring Using Feedback, Part 1

Authored By:

Thinking Collaborative


October 15, 2018

In this early part of the year, there is a whole range of “new” that you might encounter. “New” might mean new to the profession, new to the building, new to the content area, or new to the grade level. All “new” requires guidance, support, and feedback. Certain types of feedback, though well-intentioned, can do more harm than good.

Paul Green, et al., discovered that negative feedback or disconfirming feedback rarely leads to improvement. Negative feedback is seen as a threat. The more negative the feedback, the further the employee will go to forge new networks and find a new supporting partner. Green, et al., calls this “shopping for confirmation.” If we don’t have connections that help us sustain a positive view of ourselves, we’ll actively seek a connection that does.

In traditional performance appraisals, the intent has been to initiate growth and improvement. There’s an assumption that offering the brutal truth will motivate someone to improve. The realization from Green is that people will be motivated to find others who will not shine a light on their shortcomings but that they will instead make an intentional shift toward people who will give them more positive reviews. It’s not to say that people don’t want to improve when/if they recognize a personal weakness, it’s just that they are now dealing with dueling motivations. “I need to feel I’m valuable, and I need to improve.” As human beings, we struggle with this dichotomy and prefer to seek those who value us.

So what about coupling positive feedback with negative feedback? Does the traditional “A Glow and a Grow?” work? We’ll look at that next week.

How might this new information about negative feedback influence your thinking regarding your work with students and adults?

Berinato, S. (2018). Negative feedback rarely helps people improve. Harvard Business Review, January-February, 32-33.

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