Feedback is a must… or is it?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a developing teacher must be in want of feedback. Well, that is what leads many teacher educators to plan feedback sessions, invest on provoking reflection and action. It is also what moves many teachers to ask for feedback, willing to grow. I strongly believe constructive feedback has helped me become more aware of my own strengths and weaknesses. Also, all feedback moments I have had so far and the research I have been carrying out have been helping me improve both they way I receive and the way I give feedback.

In a recent presentation by Cecilia Lemos in the 15th Braz-TESOL International Conference, she reinforced the need for productive interventions to help teachers develop. She also pointed out the manner in which feedback should be given, to make it more effective for the teacher. I believe it was Goethe who once wrote that the way we treat people affects what they become. Although he was not talking about feedback, we may say it applies to the realm of education – especially considering the education of educators. The manner we treat people and the perception of their potential for development may impact their behavior in the classroom with their students.

In terms of attitude, both giving and receiving feedback need attention so that giver and receiver benefit from the communication. When giving feedback, listening is fundamental as it may inform how to approach the receiver, how to cause destabilization and reflection that will translate into action. Paying attention to the person we will be giving feedback will also ensure trust and allow content of feedback to flow.  Furthermore, the giver needs to allow time for the receiver to digest information given – during the conversation and after that. People are different and think differently, what is said may not make sense at first or it may need some time to be accepted. Also, the receiver may need to ask questions, to give further information about facts, lessons in order to understand feedback better. As givers of feedback, we need to accept that we are not always clear and that our viewpoint may be enriched if added by that of the professional receiving our feedback.

When receiving feedback, listening is also extremely important. someone who is giving feedback to another is surely attempting to help and using time for that. Apart from paying attention to what the other person is giving us it is important to take all opportunities to clarify any doubts or questions during the conversation. Finally, make an effort to act upon feedback – if not immediately, plan to take action, incorporate new habits, techniques, attitudes or drop others. Personally, it takes me time to reflect upon what is given me and act to improve my practice, so I tend to write things down on a notebook and get back to my notes every now and then to choose a new challenge, to change bad habits that have been pointed out, strengthen skills, etc.

In any position, embrace feedback, make the most of it, grow and help grow professionally. Learn from both receiving and giving feedback and keep an open mind. Nothing can stop a developing teacher.


Marcela Cintra

Marcela Cintra is the Head of Products in the Academic Department at Cultura Inglesa São Paulo. She has been working with English language teaching for over 20 years, been involved in teacher training and development programmes and presented in ABCI, LABCI, BRAZ-TESOL, TESOL and IATEFL conferences. A CELTA, ICELT and Delta tutor, she has an MA in TESOL. She is the current first-vice president for BRAZ-TESOL.

  • Fê Patucci
    Posted at 20:43h, 31 julho Responder

    You master the best way of treating people. You are awesome giving feedback and I ‘ve learned a lot from you. Thanks for the post 🙂

    • Marcela Cintra
      Marcela Cintra
      Posted at 08:57h, 03 agosto Responder

      Oh, Fe, you bring light to those around you. Thank you for the feedback.

  • Cecilia Lemos
    Cecilia Lemos
    Posted at 21:37h, 31 julho Responder

    I couldn’t have said it any better. Feedback has to be productive. We have to foster the environment for it. And what you said gives the map to getting there. Thanks for the mention! I’m honoured 🙂

    • Marcela Cintra
      Marcela Cintra
      Posted at 08:59h, 03 agosto Responder

      Hi, Ceci! I’m honoured to have sat for your presentation. Let’s help build a global atmosphere for feedback and help improve the teaching world as a team.

  • Louise Goodman
    Posted at 16:02h, 01 agosto Responder

    Marcela, very interesting post.
    Yes indeed, feedback is key to professional growth.
    Some cultures (e.g. UK, USA) are very used to it and know how to handle it.
    This is not necessarily true for other cultures and …… can get very personal.
    People loose sight on how to use it in a constructive way and get offended very easily .
    I work in Italy and giving/receiving feedback is certainly an area of improvement, both in business and academic environment.
    Have you done any research on how different cultures approach this issue?
    What about Brazil?
    I would like to learn more about it, thank you

    • Marcela Cintra
      Marcela Cintra
      Posted at 09:05h, 03 agosto Responder

      Hi, Louise!
      Thank you for your comment. Feedback is surely taken differently across cultures. I did some research for a paper at university regarding feedback for students and found some studies in Latin countries pointing out to a tendency to take it personally – from both parts, the one giving and the one receiving feedback. It was mostly in the academic work environment – some studies with feedback from managers to teachers and others from employees to managers (where it was surprisingly even worse as apparently the higher you climb, the least you trust people hierarchically below you to give you feedback).
      From my point of view we still need to improve feedback giving and receiving in Brazil in general and especially with regard to teaching – which can be very lonely and give the impression that external help or intervention is not necessary. I am currently researching appraisal in general and its impact in professional development and really want to do more research on how feedback is taken in different cultures.

  • Adriana Buzzetti
    Posted at 19:23h, 24 agosto Responder

    I loved the way you referred to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice!!! 🙂
    I also loved the article. You always make a difference!

    • Marcela Cintra
      Marcela Cintra
      Posted at 09:37h, 01 setembro Responder

      Adri! I knew you would get the reference. Thank you for your comment. YOU make a difference!

      • Adriana Buzzetti
        Posted at 19:52h, 20 setembro Responder


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