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
Source: Is It Mistreatment? Practices for Productive Teacher–Learner Interactions. Academic Medicine95(12):1957, December 2020.