By: Caitlin Sommers
At the start of Fall Quarter 2016, I started a new job at a new school. This quarter was going to be a transition period for myself, my program area, and the students I would be working with over the next year. I knew this situation would come with a steep learning curve, trying to balance learning things about the University, Department, and where my program currently stood. I had to show that I wanted to learn first, change next, and lead along the way.
So many things went through my mind. Should I change a policy now or wait until the start of the next academic year? Do I change a few processes and policies that don’t make sense or find out from my students how they did things and move forward that way to start? With some guidance from my mentors, as well as my new supervisor, I chose to change some small things that would eventually lead to bigger changes.
Because of the timing of when I started, there were many things in place already that I had no say in. There were students who were somewhat upset with me because of the schedules they were given or because something was different from what they had done previously. By the end of the quarter, I knew it was time to make sure they understood that change was starting and that their feedback was necessary. In order for our program to move forward, I needed to know where they were struggling, what I was doing well and what I could be better at. I needed to hear them and see what positive changes could be made to move this program forward in the right direction.
Cue “Feedback to Move Forward.” I was doing some research online and stumbled across an article promoting leaders/supervisors to ask for feedback regularly by asking questions. 10 questions you need to ask your team every week gave me an idea. I created a worksheet and utilized these questions as the basis for what will become a quarterly feedback questionnaire for my students to fill out. I changed the questions so that they would be applicable to my specific program area and turned it into an individual → small group → large group discussion activity in our last meeting of the quarter. You can read all about the activity and see how I changed up the questions in our resources section.
I was amazed at the openness to sharing, the vulnerability some students had, and the suggestions that had been made. I spent 4 hours on a Tuesday at work reviewing each student’s form and reaching out to them to clarify and open more dialogue. I am confident this next quarter will be much better than the first, and I have a list of things to work on and changes to make that I cannot wait to get started on. You see, we are developing leaders. A good leader needs to be comfortable asking for feedback and comfortable providing it. Instinctively, I wanted to get defensive with some responses, but I remembered “I asked for this” and “I want to make it better.” #LeadByExample
Follow this link for the feedback exercise: feedbackexercise
Here are 6 things I learned from completing this activity with my students: