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Practices for Productive Teacher-Learner Interactions

Mistreatment is complicated... 

  • It is personal and involves perception
  • It is not limited to negative feedback or confrontation
  • It can occur unintentionally during interactions

Apply behaviors that are PROFESSIONAL

Emphasize interactions that are constructive, appropriate to the encounter, and not shame inducing.

  • Providing feedback on strategies for improvement - not just faults or weaknesses
  • Focusing criticism on the behavior needing improvement
  • Basing critique on direct observation and performance
  • Providing feedback on mistakes without providing suggestions or means for correction
  • Focusing criticism on the learner's faults on a personal level
  • Basing critique on value judgments or inferences

Apply behaviors that are RESPECTFUL

Engage learners using methods that allow them to recognize you as their advocate.

  • Providing a calm, measured amount of criticism
  • Conveying criticism in suitable settings - privately when needed
  • Providing input early enough to allow time for improvement
  • Providing emotionally charged, rushed, overwhelming criticism
  • Conveying criticism in public when privacy is more appropriate
  • Blindsiding learner with criticism too late for improvement

Apply behaviors that are HUMANISTIC

Be deliberate in your sensitivity to learner values, culture, and background.

  • Demonstrating sensitivity to learner vulnerability
  • Making suggestions tailored to learners as individuals
  • Extending equal learning opportunities and benefits to all
  • Exploiting power differential to control learners
  • Making offhand remarks that stereotype learners
  • Discriminating in treatment based on gender, race, disability, or other protected classes

Apply behaviors of an EXPERT TEACHER

Use teaching methods that reflect validated techniques. 

  • Focusing on relevant learner skills integral to the task
  • Focusing on skills that are under the learner's control
  • Providing orientation and direction appropriate to the task
  • Providing vague, confusing, or task-irrelevant instructions
  • Focusing criticism on areas (e.g. environmental, programmatic) beyond the learner's control
  • Assuming expectations are obvious to the learner without direction

Avoid these unproductive attitudes and strategies

  • Offensive/misinterpreted behaviors: Touching, vulgarity, or personal errands
  • Overgeneralizations: Concluding that differences in perception mean someone will inevitably be offended, so why attend to words so closely
  • Personalizations: Conveying the sentiment that mistreatment prepared you for life
  • Frustrations: Sharing regrets that learners are simply oversensitive to any criticism
  • Complaints: Using generational differences or political correctness as a justification for mistreatment
  • Ignoring learners/avoiding feedback: Sidestepping difficult feedback conversations, which is unhelpful and often viewed as dismissive
  • Relying too heavily on humor: Joking as a means to build camaraderie, but which may be misinterpreted, may be at another's or a group's expense, and may be offensive