Feedback and COVID Pandemic/Academia — R Voice

Feedback and COVID Pandemic/Academia

Evelyn Ansah
Evelyn Ansah Member Posts: 1
edited October 7 in Personal Stories

How did we handle feedback in academia during the COVID Pandemic


  • Kakoli Majumder
    Kakoli Majumder Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 163 admin

    One major change we all had to deal with during the pandemic was going virtual. And the problem with giving and receiving feedback virtually - over skype, or slack, or email - is that your emotion does not get conveyed adequately. Face to face, when someone does a great job and you give them a pat on the back and say "Great job!" with a broad smile, it says a lot. But over email or slack, the appreciation you truly feel might not get reflected.

    I feel that giving and receiving feedback is best done over call whenever possible - preferably with video on. It does make a huge difference. But when that's not possible, here are a few things I've tried to do:

    • Begin any communication by asking how they're doing - the pandemic has taken a toll on people emotionally and physically, and it's important to check in on people before starting the work talk. If I'd had a previous conversation with them, I would ask about something non-work that I remember from that conversation - how their summer has been, if they have settled in their new home, or how're their pets doing, etc. -something to establish personal connect.
    • When giving feedback, make sure to give a balanced view - talk about what went right and appreciate the effort before mentioning areas of improvement. Overcommunicate rather than undercommunicate - provide context, explain why or what made you give the feedback, what could have been done differently, what went well and how it made a positive impact.
    • Ask the other person to share how they are feeling about the feedback - they should feel comfortable to ask questions, share their views, comments, and suggestions. It should feel like a two-way conversation.
    • One last thing I've tried to do - and I'll admit, I'm not really good at it yet - is to include emoticons in my writing. It really feels great to receive an email with the right emojis, and I'm trying my best to achieve it, but to be honest, it doesn't come to me naturally, and I'm often unsure about which emoji to choose.😕 I know I'm not there yet, but I'll keep trying. 😊

  • Kakoli Majumder
    Kakoli Majumder Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 163 admin
  • Andrea Hayward
    Andrea Hayward Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 513 admin

    @Evelyn Ansah thank you for posting this question! It's great to have you back on R Voice 😊

    I agree with what @Kakoli Majumder has expressed about the challenges of sharing feedback in a virtual setting. Especially because most of us were thrown into this situation overnight, we've each had to learn how to share feedback over a virtual call effectively. There can be a lot of misunderstanding and misinterpretation of feedback given over text/email. So I agree that feedback is best given over a call (if face-to-face is not possible) and preferably with videos turned on. The intent of the person delivering the feedback is much clearer this way.

    I also feel like how feedback is given and received in academia has changed a lot due to more open conversations around mental health and how the pandemic has affected the mental health of researchers, students, and faculty. I see people being a lot more mindful of what they say now and making attempts to be kind, empathetic, and understanding while interacting with each other.

    Would love to hear some of the other's views on this too. @vicky dariano @Juan Carlos Torres-Galván @Yuliya Shtaltovna @Omololu FAGBADEBO @Soumi Paul what's your take on this question?

  • Omololu FAGBADEBO
    Omololu FAGBADEBO Member Posts: 51 ✭✭✭

    Thanks, @Andrea Hayward. This is an issue that relates to an adjustment to a sudden new order. For those who are not used to virtual communication in a workplace, it will be difficult to cope with the emotional fulfillment associated with feedback. As succinctly put by @Kakoli Majumder, a little pat on the back goes a long way to motivate us and take us away from that emotional prison of appreciation. Using emojis is good. Nevertheless, sweet words of encouragement in a more informal language and expression laden with appreciative tones that reflect in response to feedback go a lot way to instill confidence that our works and commitment are being appreciated. Our state of mental health is a function of our emotional attachment a d feeling. A good motivation response to work is a grease for performance.

    One thing at a time

  • Jayashree Rajagopalan
    Jayashree Rajagopalan Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 175 admin

    Great question, @Evelyn Ansah - And I love what @Kakoli Majumder @Andrea Hayward and @Omololu FAGBADEBO have said. From what they all have said it's clear that how you share feedback is as important as what you share - this applies to those who are giving feedback. For those who are receiving feedback, how you react is as important as the truth of what you hear.

    Directly answering your question - how did we deal with feedback during the pandemic? I think not so well, initially and that probably applies to all of us. The pandemic seems to have set in so suddenly and our lifestyle turned on its head do abruptly, that we all took a while to get adjusted. In the process, we all struggled with basic things like sharing views, opinions, thoughts, emotions and feedback. The biggest barrier was/is a virtual setting. Suddenly we all began to appreciate how simple eye contact can help convey our message in the trickiest of situations. But, I think that over the months, as we all began to absorb the truth, we began to adapt. And like everyone has said above, we began to make an effort to speak and listen in a way that would help communicate feedback better. Of course that doesn't change the fact that feedback is not criticism - it is a healthy way of sharing inputs that will lead to relevant improvements to an idea, product, output, or individual. Irrespective of whether we are in a face-to-face conversation or in a Zoom call, feedback has to be handled with sensitivity and considerately.

  • Adaora Anyichie - Odis
    Adaora Anyichie - Odis Member Posts: 97 ✭✭✭

    Thank you @Evelyn Ansah @Kakoli Majumder for the question and also the tag. Going virtual wasn't an issue for me because I have been doing most of my academics online. However, balancing my family duties and studies was a major issue for me. WIMBIZ did a webinar in 2020 (Finding joy in the jungle)...what I learnt helped me to adjust. Planning and having a to-do list helped me a lot. Getting support from my Husband and children kept me insane too.

  • leonard waks
    leonard waks Member Posts: 2

    Perhaps there is a valuable lesson from the field of active learning. One of the most common simple active learning techniques is "think, pair, share." In this technique, an instructor gives a prompt and everyone writes for 2 to 3 minutes. Then all of the participants pair up, and share from what they have written and then discuss what they have written.

    Adapting this to the online feedback situation, one might imagine a sequence where the object being critiqued is the "prompt". Others then have a designated time to write their critiques or their "feedback" - with certain guidelines offered about how to do that in a generous and constructive manner. THis is the "think" part.

    The feedback is then delivered in writing through email, with a follow-up video meeting scheduled shortly thereafter. This meeting also comes with guidelines on how to receive feedback. In the video meeting the author first thanks the critic for feedback. The author can then read it out loud and ask any questions for clarification. In this meeting the author is not encouraged to reply to the feedback. The goal is for the author to have time to receive the feedback, think about it in isolation, and ask questions for clarification. Feedback is considered a gift, not a prompt for a contentious conversation.

    Finally, there is an opportunity for follow-up. The author considers the feedback, takes what is useful onboard, and communicates this response by email to the critic. This may or may not prompt a further constructive conversation. For example, the author can say: I found this line in the feedback intriquiing and would love to hear your thoughts about how I have used it.

    Bottom line: nothing is gained by feedback that gets batted away. Nothing is gained by either hurtful criticism or defensive reactions to feedback. A ritualized structure can make constructive feedback rewarding for both author and critic.

  • Andrea Hayward
    Andrea Hayward Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 513 admin

    You're spot on, as usual @Omololu FAGBADEBO. I can personally relate to what you've said about emotional fulfilment associated with feedback. I still struggle with this sometimes in a virtual work setting. I tend to read too much into written feedback and wonder if the person doesn't really think I did a good job or if the goal was satisfactorily achieved. It can be quite frustrating, especially when I feel like bringing it up would be silly.

    I do my best to ensure that I'm not leaving room for this to happen when I'm the feedback giver. So yes, this involve using emojis, kind and encouraging words, and sometimes going the extra mile to let someone know how much I appreciate their work 😊

  • Andrea Hayward
    Andrea Hayward Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 513 admin
    edited October 12

    @leonard waks this structured approach sounds very interesting and even effective. Thank you for sharing it. It's given me a lot to think about 😊

    While I agree that structure would make constructive feedback rewarding for both parties involved, I can't help but wonder how feasible it would be to implement this, especially from a time perspective. Given that most of our work interactions are now virtual and over Zoom calls, I'm wondering if there's a way to shorten the process somehow without diminishing its value of course.

    I'm also pondering how supervisors could maybe present this process in a way that encourages folks to actually want to try it and devote the necessary time to it. I suppose that once everyone has experienced this process and its benefits for some time, making it a regular work practice it might not be so tedious. What worries me is the initial transition period which people might not be so welcoming of. Do you have any thoughts here?

  • Jayashree Rajagopalan
    Jayashree Rajagopalan Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 175 admin

    What an interesting perspective @leonard waks - I just looked up the TPS technique and see how valuable it could be for peer-to-peer feedback in academia. Not only does it encourage independent but critical thinking but it also makes feedback givers think about the manner in which they want to share their feedback. Also, the sharing of multiple viewpoints really helps build reviewing capacity. The more I am reading your response and about TPS, the more I am liking such a collaborative approach to feedback. Thanks for the food-for-thought.