By Emma Grave
The world is a sadly dangerous place for women and girls, and we see that again and again," Obama said on Today. "I think young women are tired of it. They're tired of being undervalued. They're tired of being disregarded. They're tired of their voices not being invested in and heard. And it's not just around the world, it's happening right here in this country. And if we're going to change that, we have to give them the tools and the skills through education to be able to lift those voices up.
Michelle Obama, 2018
I recently read the autobiography Becoming by Michelle Obama. It was an engaging and thought-provoking tale of the Princeton-educated powerhouse, who has consistently championed the education of girls and become a role model “with grace, grit and style”, according to her husband Barack, the 44th President of the United States. In reflecting on her journey, one thing struck a chord with me – Michelle’s ongoing willingness to seek and accept feedback. Feedback is specific information about a product or a person’s performance of a task which is used as a basis for improvement. In Michelle’s case, feedback from university professors, employees, friends and foes was used to inch Michelle closer to being the best version of herself that she could be.
The thing is, feedback can be difficult to hear. Especially if it’s challenging. We all respond well when our biases are confirmed or our egos are flattered. Constructive feedback, on the other hand, can make us defensive and can easily reveal our raw vulnerabilities. But if feedback is as good as everyone says it is, how can we get better at receiving it in the right way?
According to the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, the research on feedback is clear – effective feedback practices can greatly improve student learning and teaching quality. In fact, global evidence shows students who receive high quality feedback can make an additional eight months’ progress over a year.
And so, I pose the question: how can we enable our girls to find the courage to seek the feedback they need in order to move forward in their learning? How can we assist our girls to raise their hand, to ask the questions, to clarify their understanding? A culture of support, of respect and a willingness to move forward together will provide the necessary climate for this to grow. I call this the Seymour Feedback Loop.
The Feedback Loop is an ongoing respectful and honest conversation that allows everyone to grow. This conversation is a partnership in learning which acknowledges constructive feedback has the power to enable our girls to move forward in their development with courage.
Let’s all enable our girls to be a little braver. A little more willing to seek the feedback they need.
A little more like Michelle.