• Varnika Singh

"Why university students should actively seek Feedback"

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

When we hear of someone giving us "feedback", we expect certain suggestions that would help us discover our strengths and weaknesses. It might passively assist us to enhance our learning process. According to me, providing "feedback" as simple as it sounds, carries a lot of baggage of building as well as ruining people's confidence at the learning/workplace. Now, helping someone out of one's experience may be called feedback but what do u call suggestions/opinions coming from someone who themselves are beginners/learners. Feedback?

Also, I feel, feedback is extremely important at every stage of life. And feedback is given at the right time and with the right motive, one can skip those sets of failures that happen in the early stage of our lives. Well! in the forthcoming text here, I am going to share my experience from one of the leading universities, where I witnessed the culture of sharing feedback amongst the students. Of course, I will confine my writing to the outcomes I noticed in a particular group of students and not the whole university. And yes, the results I saw didn't only comprise of positive outcomes, but otherwise too. To keep the reading, motivated and cheerful, let me share the positives first.

1. Recognizing hidden talents

By and large, the assessment, done at the educational institutions is mostly based on academics performances. But this wasn't the case here. The best part of this feedback system was its versatile nature. It not only focused on academics but also on extracurricular activities (writing, singing, dancing, drama, sports, etc), innovation, politics, management, etc. A famous quote from India's former President, Late Mr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam says, "The best brains of the nation may be found on the last benches of the classrooms".

Similarly, here the feedback received by the fellow students and their mentors encouraged some " not so studious" but "super skilled" students to be in the spotlight. It helped to create a balanced, healthy, and coordinated environment within the students and most of the students found themselves worthy (not just the class toppers).

2. Rising from the ashes sub-optimal performance

One very interesting thing about positive feedback is it works wonders for the students who are intelligent but at the same time have that "I don't care attitude". Ultimately, the students get into the top universities to build a strong foundation. But sometimes we see them lacking in certain areas which might be important for their career ahead. Feedback culture can highlight those shortcomings and efforts can be made to specifically improve them.

We often feel that our mentors can only provide us with the best feedback, but the reality I feel little twisted there. These mentors spend time with students only during class hours, whereas students/classmates know them better on and off the regular class routine. One of the beautiful things I saw at the university was an organic environment where students are competitive but at the same time not "ruthless butchers"/" backstabbers". So unlike the situations at the corporate offices, students tend to genuinely provide feedback to their fellow mates. All these ultimately help them to outshine as a better learner, listener, and most importantly a fruitful performer.

3. A healthy and coordinated environment of learning

Imagine a place where "learning" is not just stuck with books and it has a much deeper meaning. It comprises personality development, good moral values, helping each other, and lots of other stuff that implies to the real world. So one very important point of why a student should seek feedback at a university level is so as to build a strong foundation. Of course, the world outside the university is much harsher, ultra-competitive, and tough. This regular feedback is given to the students by the mentors, fellow mates, and sometimes invited counselors to make the university students thick-skinned and well prepared.

In my university, the feedback culture was portrayed to the students as a tool that can actually uplift their personality, brush their existing skills, and make them a better person.And it worked wonders for most of the students.

4. Brings out the lions, not goats!

So, this anecdote is picked up from my friend's journey at the university. She was a super introvert, quiet, and sensitive girl who would hardly participate in anything in the class. But she had amazing observation skills and her judgments for people would never go wrong. When the feedback culture began, she was the one who outshined the most. She was criticized by every single student in the class because of her weird personality. But she decided to absorb all the positives comments (which were very few) and kept all the negatives ones (too many) just to her surface.

Slowly we all could see her bloom. Just as boiling water would slowly evaporate, she surfaced negatives began to elope. She started conversing with other students, shared her problems, helped other students with her honest feedback. A lion is the quietest animal in the jungle, yet so powerful and majestic. My friend could have easily succumbed to this situation and have behaved like a goat (follow the herd, skittish). But she chose to be a lion or lioness! So I think feedback culture helped her in finding her strength and the transformation happened.

Sometimes, subjective feedback was taken in a bad light, and students can become those goats. Students, unlike the corporates, are more vulnerable to being impressionable, suggestible, and easily swayed. Honest feedback given by a mentor or a fellow can sound harsh and intimidating at times and may lead to students being disheartened, low self-esteemed, and aloof. And these effects may stay for quite some time and eventually in a way corrupts the whole feedback culture. If we give it a thought on who is responsible here! Mentors or the students???

I think that's another interesting fact about feedback. Some say it is just a measure of your strength and weakness and has nothing to do with your performance. Receiving feedback in any which way is your own choice. An optimistic state of mind along with a willingness to improve is what is needed to gain from positive/negative feedback.

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