Numeric and normative feedback (scores and comparative information) is more persuasive and effective than text feedback with only “self-relevant data”, regardless of the source. That’s according to a 2006 study looking at the best methods for providing feedback to ‘leaders’:
This study investigated the influence of feedback format (text versus numeric/normative) on leaders’ reactions to 360 degree feedback received from bosses, direct reports, and peers. Leaders who received numeric/normative feedback reacted more favourably than those who received text feedback regardless of the source. [â€¦] These findings suggest that, contrary to predictions of feedback intervention theory (FIT), feedback that provided scores and comparative information was reacted to more positively than text feedback that provided only self-relevant data. In addition, negative reactions to feedback were detrimental to future changes.
Thanks to ourÂ illusory superiority we consistently overestimate our performance on tests, and, without quality feedback, rapidly become oblivious to the gaps in our knowledge. Furthermore, many consider testing to be an ineffectual tool for assessing performance and errors to be counterproductive to learning.
Challenging this preconception is research suggesting that making mistakes on tests–and being informed of them–is an integral part of the learning process.
We tend to assumeÂ that the best way to consume and remember information is through theÂ application of rigorous, extended study. What we fail to see, however,Â is that the process of trying to work through a problem to which weÂ don’t know the answer focuses our attention on it in a way that simplyÂ studying it does not. The desire to get the answer right, and theÂ frustration of failure, is partly to account.
But there’s another element as well. When we struggle to learnÂ something, and fail, the moment we finally get the answer it imprintsÂ itself more deeply on our mind than it would have had struggle andÂ failure not preceded it.Â [â€¦]
If I had to identify one overarching lesson from Â our study it would beÂ this: When you make mistakes, don’t just let them slip by – correctÂ them. Create challenging learning environments, make mistakes and thenÂ learn from them.
There is much in common here with theÂ evidence-based approach to teaching.
Feedback is important, there’s no doubt, but obtaining quality feedback that is honest and of use can be difficult.
After spending an evening with a person “oblivious to the social dynamics” of a situation, Ben Casnocha providesÂ tips on obtaining honest feedback:
- For feedback on specifics — such as your participation at a dinner or a piece of writing — [â€¦] proactively ask for it.
- It’s harder to get feedback on more permanent personality traits or long-standing habits, so ask for “ideas” or, if appropriate, for feedback via the Nohari and Johari exercises.
- If you give blunt feedback, you are actually less likely to get blunt feedback in return. The law of reciprocity does not apply.
- Consider how close you are to a person who is providing feedback and how that will affect their response(s).
Penelope Trunk offers some more advice on receivingâ€¦ advice:
- Pay attention to your critics.
- Realise that our problems are not unique.
- Less experience often means better advice.
- Be wary of people whose lives look perfect.
- Stick with people who give you bad advice.
That first item from Trunk is identical to the one piece of ‘feedback advice’ that I’ve subscribed to since I heard it duringÂ Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture:
- Listen to your critics. “When you’re screwing up and nobody’s saying anything to you anymore, that means they gave up”.
It comes as no surprise to hear that we are poor at perceiving how others view us and are poor at recognising the true personality traits of those we observe, but it’s the extent to which this is true and methods we can use to overcome these ‘personality blind spots’ that I find interesting.
When people are asked how long they think their romantic relationship will last, they’re not very good at estimating the right answer. Their friends, it turns out, fare far better. But if you ask people how satisfied they are in a relationship, their ratings accurately predict how long they’ll stay together. In many cases, we have the necessary information to understand things as they areâ€”but our blind spots don’t allow us to take it into account.
After looking at some of our biases that make this so (e.g. the illusion of transparency and the spotlight effect) and what traits we are able to discern in ourselves and in others with some accuracy, the article goes on to suggest that the best way to learn more about ourselves is to solicit feedback.
How you’re seen does matter. Social judgment forms the basis for social interaction itself. Almost every decision others make about you, from promotions to friendships to marriages, is based on how people see you. So even if you never learn what you’re really like, learning how others perceive you is a worthwhile goal.
The solution is asking others what they see. The best way to do this is to solicit their opinions directlyâ€”though just asking your mom won’t cut it. You’ll need to get feedback from multiple peopleâ€”your friends, coworkers, family, and, if you can, your enemies. Offer the cloak of anonymity without which they wouldn’t dare share the brutal truth.