Education Posts

Calling All Educators: The 4 Types of Feedback You’ll Encounter and How to Filter Them

Calling All Educators: The 4 Types of Feedback You’ll Encounter and How to Filter Them

By Dr. Chris White

10 years ago


educators, feedback,



Calling All Educators: The 4 Types of Feedback You’ll Encounter and How to Filter Them

As leaders in education, one thing is quite unavoidable: people giving us feedback! It can be positive feedback (if so, please pinch yourself!) or it can be “constructive criticism.” As I’ve studied feedback and have also been on the receiving end of a healthy dose myself, I’ve created a Feedback Tree that I think you’ll find useful.

Think of it as a decision tree. At the top of the Feedback Tree, it splits into feedback that is either Inaccurate or Accurate. I’d call this a 20-80 split, so about 20% of the time the feedback you receive will be inaccurate, and about 80% of the time it will be accurate. Notice I didn’t say that 80% of the time every single thing the person said is accurate, it’s just that 80% of the time there’s some nugget in there—even if it’s buried fairly deeply!

And now continuing down the Accurate branch of our tree, it splits into feedback that is either Poorly Delivered or Well Delivered. Of the 80% in this branch, I give this a 70-10 split. So that means that only about 10% of the time will the feedback you receive be Accurate and Well Delivered! I call the feedback-givers in our lives who fall into this category “Namesakes,” because they are so rare and impacting that we should name our kids or pets or cars after them!

That leaves us with 70% of the time having feedback that’s Accurate…but Poorly Delivered. We call these people “Jerks!” (not out loud, hopefully!). You’ve experienced this: a little cheap shot thrown in, a trigger word, picking a really bad day, a pile on, a public scene, etc. But despite the imperfect delivery, there is truth to be found. domain name owner . As leaders, we not only have to overlook the poor delivery (because it’s quite expected — if we expect otherwise, then who’s crazy now??), but then sift through and find the nugget(s) of truth.

Now to the 20% Inaccurate branch. Even if it seems abundantly clear that the feedback is Inaccurate, there are times when only later do we realize there was some truth to it. I call these the “Oops!” exceptions that can push the Accurate branch a bit over 80%!

Branching down from here, we have an even 10-10 split. So feedback that is Inaccurate but Well Delivered happens about 10% of the time. I call these people “Sweetie,” because they say it so nicely but really don’t have much to say!

And then there’s the people who give feedback that’s a double-whammy: Inaccurate and Poorly Delivered! This happens about 10% of the time and we call these people “Idiots!” (and then we cease all communication if at all possible).

When I explain the Feedback Tree to audiences, as I go through each branch I ask them, “What’s the best response to feedback here?” Take a glance at yourself and think of how you would answer that question. It’s so interesting that they always arrive at “Say thanks,” not just for the Accurate and Well Delivered, but for all 4 branches! Of course, not a dismissive or abrupt “Thanks!” but a genuine I-appreciate-you-trying-to-help-me “Thanks.”

The challenge, particularly for us as educators, is to not give up on the feedback process due to the long odds, but instead fight through the challenges. We have to work hard at creating the safety for people to give us feedback. Otherwise, we’ll just learn things the hard way…and I’ve certainly done my share of that. I find a lot of personal fulfillment seeing The Flippen Group processes help facilitate safety in school settings, and not just with feedback for leaders but throughout all levels.

Dr. Chris White

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