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Key skills: making a difference
Key skills: making a difference

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3.6.1 Seek and actively use feedback to achieve your targets

Feedback can be an important aspect of improving your performance, but it can also have a negative effect if you take it too personally or if the giver is not skilled in offering feedback in a positive and constructive way. Feedback should not just be a matter of pointing out what you have done wrong; it should help confirm what you are doing well and give you pointers as to how you might improve in other areas. One important thing to remember when dealing with feedback is that the giver is commenting on your performance of a particular task or role, not on your value as a person. And by inviting feedback you are inviting the giver to go into the sort of hypothetical mode that may not apply in everyday life.

In asking for feedback you might like to suggest that your tutor or manager help you identify what you did well, what were your main weaknesses and how you could have done it better. Other students and work colleagues can be a particularly valuable source of feedback and support. Many people find a chance to talk to others electronically (for example, using e-conferencing) a real boost to their confidence – being able to check and collaborate on understanding and ideas.

Time out

Take time to think about what you need feedback comments on and when you are likely to find these comments useful. Ask others for specific comments so that you can really focus on those areas you want to improve. When you receive feedback, how do you use it? Try to give yourself time to consider the comments carefully and constructively to improve your performance.

To make maximum use of your comments and feedback from others you need to build in time and opportunities to look back at your records, work activities, and notes, and relate them to your targets. Reflect on what you have done so far and how you have achieved it. This is about using your own learning and experience to improve.

Learning from experience does not occur automatically just from being immersed in it. You can do something a hundred times and still learn nothing from the experience. You need to challenge what you have done and how you have achieved it – this is often called critical reflection. From our research we have found that critical reflection is a skill in itself and one that is quite difficult to develop. It can take much time and effort to be able to do this for yourself. One way to start is to ask another person to listen to you while you tell them about any problems you encountered, how you solved them, and to help you identify those opportunities that were effective for your learning. You will be surprised how much insight you can gain by just talking-through the experience.

Now that you have monitored your progress, you are in a good position to consider any changes you wish to make to your strategy overall.

Activity: Monitoring your progress

For this activity you will need to print out the Skills Sheet, ‘Monitoring your progress’: click here [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]   to open it.

Present a commentary, making reference to the work you are doing and your own notes, that includes:

  • the targets you have met, any choices you made in achieving them and your judgement, based on criteria, of how well you achieved them;

  • the different ways you have used to learn; for example attending a skills workshop where you work in groups, or working on your own interrogating online resources to research information;

  • how you managed your time to meet your targets; for example meeting your deadlines and cut-off dates; coping with unexpected demands; allowing time to think and critically reflecting on your learning and progress;

  • a summary of the feedback and support you requested and received and how you made use of it to meet your targets; and

  • whether and how you adapted your strategy while you were working to achieve your targets.

Refer to the figure below for an example of a completed Skills Sheet for this stage of the key skills framework.

Figure 3
Example of a completed Skills Sheet for ‘Monitoring your progress’