Academic Lens: Unpacking Feedback

Posted by Scott Allenby


We are officially more than halfway through the school year as mid-term grades were published earlier this week. In isolation, these numerical assessments of student performance provide a narrow view of student growth. This is why Proctor’s academic model integrates feedback loops (through our Official Notes system) that provide students consistent feedback not only on academic performance, but the growth process.


We recognize unpacking the feedback we provide our students can be challenging. No one enjoys hearing how his hard work has fallen short of a teacher’s expectations, or how he must continue to develop his skills, especially when he feels he has been working incredibly hard to do so already. Often, a fundamental conflict exists between our desire to learn and our desire to be affirmed.


This article by the Harvard Business Review offers valuable strategies for us to employ as we offer formal feedback to our students and help them accept and implement that feedback.

1. Know Your Tendencies:

Once you know yourself, you can more objectively self-reflect on areas of growth. Helping students better understand themselves as learners is core to our educational mission. 

2. Disentangle the What From the Who 

While teacher/student relationships are foundational to a Proctor education, we must be able to separate the feedback from the person giving the feedback so that personal relationships remain strong, and honest feedback can be provided.


3. Sort Toward Coaching 

Proctor’s desire to provide a growth narrative for each student through Official Notes and formative assessments naturally sorts toward coaching. While we integrate numerical grades into our feedback system, we must always focus on process, not performance.

4. Unpack the Feedback:

Digging into the comments teachers provide allows us to fully understand what is being communicated. We must help our students avoid jumping to conclusions, and instead unpack the feedback given as objectively as possible.


5. Ask for One Thing: 

Small, bite-size chunks of feedback can be much more palatable than a slew of grades and comments all at one time. Our belief in regular, formative assessment ensures feedback is frequent and manageable to digest.

6. Engage in Small Experiments: 

Rarely is an entire overhaul of an individual’s academic approach successful. Instead, helping our students conduct small experiments as they evolve study strategies allows our students to better identify which strategies are working and which are not.


Education, regardless of whether it is in a high school classroom, in college, or in a new job, is a never-ending growth process. We never ‘arrive’, rather we must continually seek opportunities for growth through openly accepting feedback, reflecting on it, and developing strategies to implement change. Helping our students understand this mindset lays a foundation that will serve them well throughout their life! 

Click here to see Proctor's academic model in action! 


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