My colleague (fellow trainer and former participant on a short trainer skills course), came up for a quick hallway conversation at a conference in Kyiv, Ukraine. She said she had been thinking of me lately, and then made a comment which became a title of this post. By ‘your way’ (of giving feedback) my colleague meant my gentle and respectful way of talking to teachers. I was very curious! Having very little time for a more in-depth conversation, I asked just one question: ‘Did the teacher you were trying to give feedback to want any feedback? Did s/he ask for it?‘ As you may guess, the answer was ‘no‘.
I am hoping to catch up with my friend and to hear the full story (with our busy schedules and travels, it seems hard!) Meanwhile, I started thinking what IS ‘my feedback style’? Being polite and respectful in the way I talk to a teacher is a part of it (and very important part!) but what else makes it ‘my way’?
I then recalled a ‘feedback conversation’ with my friend and colleagues Ron Bradley** (who is also a fellow trainer and trainer of trainers, and a reader and commenter on this blog). Ron commented on my Trainer Integrity post and recalled ‘The Green Zone Gift Box’ activity he did on a course for teachers and trainers.
Reminded by that hallway conversation I thought to share our chats with Ron about this feedback attitude, beliefs and metaphors. Hope you enjoy reading it!
** you can find more information about Ron at the end of the post**
Zhenya: So Ron, could you tell me more about this activity?
Ron: ‘The Green Zone Gift Box’ was a session I came up with for a group of participants/trainers in Turkey. The ‘green zone’, or ‘communal zone’, refers to a puzzle activity used to build team cohesiveness. It was created and delivered in response to one participant (and the group leader) from the Ministry of Education. [By virtue of his position, he thought he carried authority and gave feedback as such]. In the green zone, jig-saw puzzle pieces are shared without regard to the person or ego. Once an idea is given up/shared/placed in the metaphorical green box, it no longer has one’s authorship, or ego attached.
One example of such puzzle activity from Business Balls free materials collection can be found here.
Zhenya: How does it work in relation to feedback on someone’s lesson?
Ron: When a piece of feedback is placed (metaphorically) into the Green Zone Gift Box and when retrieved by the receiver, the ideas, suggestions, criticisms have no ownership and can be regarded or rejected without the reference to the giver and therefore potential bad feels and possible rejection.
Zhenya: What you said reminded me of one feedback metaphor ‘Candy on the Table’ (I wrote a post about it a long time ago). If we imagine that the green space is the ‘table’, the picture may have to change this way.
Ron: Yes, exactly: once the feedback piece is given up in the Green Zone Gift Box, there is no ownership of the idea[s]…not until they are picked up by the receiver of the gift. The shared ideas or feedback are read in private, so to speak, with no response or reaction given to the giver (after all, the giver is unknown). It is the receiver’s choice as to what to do with the ideas or feedback—accept and act upon, or reject.
Zhenya: Makes sense to me! What if, for example, there is a question or clarification needed? Can there be a dialogue?
Ron: If some clarification is needed, the receiver may seek it from the giver and/or do further research until the receiver feels comfortable and confident. The Green Zone Gift Box can be metaphorical or actually implemented.
Zhenya: Ron, thank you for this conversation and idea sharing. I love the feedback discussion questions on the slide.
Now, back to the title of the post: I really don’t believe there could be ‘the’ feedback method or style, always working, with anyone we are talking to. There is no ‘right’ method, I think. To me, putting a candy on the table and letting the teacher decide whether or not s/he wants to eat it is crucial. By doing so, I am aware I can hear ‘No thanks!’ in reply.
Questions to Readers:
What do you think about the Green Zone Gift Box and Candy on the Table? What other feedback metaphors do you use?
Thank you for reading!
**A more formal introduction: Ron Bradley is a senior teacher trainer and trainer of trainers with World Learning SIT Graduate Institute, and he is a very experienced and well travelled ELT-er (a trainer, trainer of trainers, educational consultant, online course facilitator, U.S. State Department English Language Specialist) I had a chance to co-train with Ron on several courses in South Korea, and we have been in touch for years sharing training and teaching ideas and insights.**