Succeed with learning
Succeed with learning

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

2.1 Some theories about feedback

Some theories, like that of the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, suggest there are aspects of ourselves that we are only slightly, or not at all, aware of.

Freud’s theory represented as an iceberg, part of which is shown underwater.
Figure 2 Freud’s theory represented as an iceberg

Freud believed that the human personality had three aspects to it; he called these the id, the ego and the super-ego. He also argued that the working of the unconscious part of the mind, those parts under the waterline in the picture of the iceberg (Figure 2), is almost impossible to access. However, these hidden aspects could contain information that might be useful for personal development – and so we need to think about how to access them.

The idea of using feedback builds on the idea that other people, because they have different perspectives, can help us to gather information that would be difficult to obtain if we worked alone.

Drawing of the top half of a man in a short-sleeved shirt.
Figure 3 360-degree feedback

This idea is the basis of what is called 360-degree feedback. This is sometimes used in workplaces to give someone as wide a picture as possible about how well he or she is doing. It involves asking for feedback from everyone whose views are seen as helpful and relevant.

Maybe you have had this kind of feedback yourself? It is always interesting, but sometimes difficult, to hear your colleagues’ or workmates’ perspectives on your performance at work.

For this part of the course, in order to see the value of feedback it would be useful to have some feedback from someone on your qualities, knowledge and skills. So the next activity asks you to start thinking about this. (If you cannot think of anyone, there is an alternative method coming shortly – but spend a little time trying to identify someone first.)

Activity 3 Choosing a trusted adviser or mentor

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes for this activity.

Take a few minutes to think about asking someone for feedback, particularly on your qualities and skills and knowledge.

Note down your thoughts about people you might ask. They would be taking the role of a mentor – someone with relevant experience who you can trust to advise you, so choose them carefully. It may be a relative or a friend perhaps.


If you struggled to think of anyone you would be comfortable with asking for feedback, don’t worry – the next section of the course will offer an alternative.

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371