A blog post on what I took away from Mike Hogan’s ELT Ireland Annual Conference talk on ‘two-way feedback’. (by Joanne Mitten)
If you’re a teacher, a teacher trainer or a manager of any kind, it’s more than likely you’ve had to give feedback in some form or another. It’s almost certain that you’ve received it, as feedback has become a prolific aspect of professional development, and not just in the ELT industry.
But have you thought extensively about how you give and receive feedback? This is a question I had to ask myself during Mike Hogan’s fantastic talk at the ELT Ireland Annual Conference  on Saturday 20th February 2016. And I was very glad I did, as I came away from the session with a much clearer idea of what effective two-way feedback really is.
The main idea I took from this talk is that Hogan’s advice on how best to give and receive feedback is applicable to any situation where feedback is required. So if you regularly give feedback to your students, teacher trainees or teachers, or you receive feedback from students, colleagues or managers, here are some of the top tips I learnt on Saturday:
Use the Johari Window  to best analyse your relationship with yourself and others.
The open or known self is your public persona. It’s what you know about yourself and others know about you. Your blind self is what others know about you that you don’t know about yourself or haven’t recognised yet. The hidden self is what you know about yourself that is kept secret from others. And, as Hogan himself puts it, the unknown self is the “dark side.” It may contain aspects of our personality that neither we nor others know about.
To be effective communicators and to make use of real and useful two way feedback, Hogan advises that we expand our known self, the public side of us, and be as transparent as possible. The reason for this is that, although blind self and hidden self may have negative connotations, they might actually contain positive aspects of our characters.
Your colleagues might recognise something in you that you never saw before, and feedback should highlight this. Perhaps you haven’t made all your skills or accomplishments known to your employer or colleagues; these hidden skills might enhance your career or help develop someone else on your team. Once you begin to use the Johari Window to analyse and understand your relationship with yourself and others, two-way feedback will become more effective.
Giving effective feedback, whether to students, colleagues or trainees, takes thought and skill.
People can sometimes associate feedback with criticism, and this is something that those giving feedback need to steer clear of. Criticism is about what happened in the past. Feedback is about developing for the future. Here are Hogan’s top tips on giving constructive feedback:
- Before offering feedback, consider the value of it. If it’s of no value to the receiver, what’s the point in giving it?
- Comment on things done well (remember, these things might be in the receiver’s blind spot), not just on areas for improvement.
- Focus on observed behaviour; describe what you saw and felt.
- Be specific. The more general your feedback is, the less useful it is to the receiver. Give specific examples of things observed that were done well or need improvement.
- During the discussion, use questions as well as making statements. Find out why the receiver chose to do what they did. This will help you see things from other perspectives rather than just your own.
- Insist on choice but always highlight the consequences.
Receiving feedback is just as much a skill as giving it! These are Hogan’s tips for seeking out feedback and taking it on board.
- Be proactive: ask for feedback, be it from clients, students, colleagues or managers.
- Accept the feedback as information. It’s the view/ experience of the person giving it and is not necessarily ‘truth.’
- Avoid arguing, denying or justifying as this prevents you from really listening. Focus on clarifying details and identifying specific examples that will help you move forward.
- Take time to consider the feedback and choose what you want to do with it – will you accept it, reject it or accept it in part?
- Where you feel feedback is relevant and accurate, formulate a plan to move yourself forward.
In an industry where constructive feedback from students, teachers, trainers and managers is crucial (and ever present!), it’s essential that we maintain open and clear communication. And of course, once feedback is provided, support should be put in place to help the receiver build on the advice they’ve just heard. Using Hogan’s straightforward yet insightful advice above should help you as a teacher, trainer or manager to create a culture of two-way feedback that ‘s beneficial to everyone involved in your institution.
 Creating and maintaining an effective two-way feedback culture.
 Created by two American psychologists, Joseph Luft (1916–2014) and Harrington Ingham (1914–1995) in 1955