This is a BRILLIANT guest post by the wise and lovely Jennifer Louden!
When Jac asked me to talk about my favorite ways to get feedback for my courses and retreats, I’ll admit my first thought was, “Do we have to talk about that?” Because feedback used to be such a painful topic for me.
I would ask for feedback because I wanted confirmation that I was:
a) Doing a near perfect job teaching,
b) I was reaching everybody and, yes, changing their lives.
Step back with me for a moment, dear reader, and check in – what is underneath your desire to gather feedback? I’ll bet you have more emotionally mature reasons than I had and yet asking yourself:
“Why am I asking for feedback?”
“What kind of feedback do I want?”
“Whom am I asking?”
will change your feedback game. Right away, you challenge the myth that all feedback is useful when in fact, feedback is not universally necessary or useful. Too many of us ask for it because we think we should or we use it as a way to bludgeon ourselves into doing better or as a reason to quit.
Instead, use feedback to further your own teaching goals and keep your learning growing. It’s about your desires and goals, rather than looking for a stamp of universal approval or anybody’s approval for that matter.
Yes, you can totally flop as a teacher and facilitator – I certainly have and no doubt will again – and feedback can be a crucial way to improve what isn’t working or to reach a particular audience more effectively. But only if we allow it in from a place of ‘this isn’t the truth and this doesn’t determine my future: it’s just an opinion. I decide what I do with it.’
Then here are some practical tips for how to gather feedback:
1 -Eliciting feedback
Don’t wait until the end of a course or retreat but gather throughout – at the end of each section, each day, each circle, halfway through a one-hour webinar. This helps your participants learn.
We don’t learn until we reflect, so by asking your students, “What has had heart and meaning for you in this section?” or “What has been most valuable for you so far?” their learning has a better chance of sticking. And the benefit for you? You capture their juiciest insights before they fade. These can then, with permission, be turned into sales page testimonials.
During TeachNow, I offer an incentive with a feedback deadline to encourage them to make the effort to reflect.
Also, by asking throughout the course or midway in a shorter offer, you avoid the “got to go” or “I’m tired” that happens at the end, leaving you with no idea how your teaching landed – which can leave you feeling blah.
2-Interview three of your ‘just right’ students
It never ceases to amaze me how much more I learn about what works – and doesn’t – when I am willing to get on the phone with students that I love working with and ask lots of questions. I make notes and record (you can use a free conference service or buy a digital recorder that works via Skype). Be willing to keep asking the same questions in different ways, like:
What has had lasting value for you?
What was your biggest hesitation about working with me?
What isn’t as hard for you now?
What have you done since the class ended? What aren’t you doing anymore?
What was your favorite exercise / section / part?
Follow your intuition and let yourself be a nosy reporter, and be patient. It takes people awhile to get to their best insights. You just might be amazed.
3-Handling negative comments
Remind yourself that they aren’t the truth, they are someone’s opinion. The feedback is as much about the person giving it as it is about your teaching. Perhaps ask a friend to be with you when you read the negative comments or to help you process them.
Is this person my ‘just right’ student?
Is this who I want to serve?
Are they ever going to connect with me or my material?
Do I agree with any of part of their comment, even if it stings?
Can I remember that I am not my work?
Am I getting this type of feedback from more than one person?
It’s also always worth remembering the growth mindset vs. the fixed mindset when encountering feedback. The growth mindset basically believes, “goodie, room for improvement, and boy, don’t I love a challenge!” vs. “I can never do this, I’m a fake, and now I’ve been found out.”
Growth mindset or not, it’s still just an opinion and there will always be people you cannot please or reach. Trust me on that!
4-Make a simple, clear plan for how you will implement any feedback you agree with
Name the steps you will actually take and when, instead of leaving the feedback in the vague ‘someday I’ll do something with it’ place or the ‘hang over my head because I should do it but have no intentions of doing it ever’ energy draining place. Make a plan, keep it simple, and delete the rest. For example:
A post-it note by your computer reminding you to pause more often and speak slower
Recording an additional audio about marketing (I did that for the last round of TeachNow when I got feedback from two students who wanted more nitty-gritty marketing help)
Interview graphic designers to create better designed collateral materials for your handouts
5-Don’t forget to ask yourself
Plan some time for your own reflection soon after teaching: What did you love? What worked best for you? What would you like to try next time? Give yourself ten minutes to free write or have a session with a teacher friend where he or she listens to you and makes notes, then reflects back to you what was heard. Because in the end, it really is your own intuition and heart that will lead the truest way to teaching with presence and love.
OVER TO YOU
In the comments below, please share a takeaway or tip that stood out to you and cement your own learning. Thanks for reading and thanks to Jac for having me!
Jennifer Louden is a personal growth pioneer who helped launch the self-care movement with her first book, The Woman’s Comfort Book. She’s the author of 7 additional books on well-being and whole living and has been teaching retreats and leading workshops since 1992 and creating vibrant on-line communities and innovative learning experiences since 2000.