Let’s say you were a contestant on The Next Food Network Star.
Three Food Network stars—big ones—Bobby Flay, Giada De Laurentiis, Alton Brown—are giving you honest, straight-up advice about what you need to do to win over the Food Network executives so you might score your own show.
Would you take their advice? Or would you do what you think is right, if you had a differing opinion?
Okay, so first of all, yes, I am blogging about reality television… again. This cold-turned-sinus-infection thing is kicking my behind and I’m watching a little too much. Second of all, I couldn’t help but make a correlation between something I saw on this show last Sunday and students and professors, so stay with me here.
Here’s what happened: Two contestants, after hearing feedback by their Food Network Mentor (Giada, Bobby, or Alton), pretty blatantly said, “I’m going to do things my own way.”
One feels that he cannot kick up his laid back personality because that is not consistent with his cultural makeup. The other does not perceive that having a “culinary point of view” is as important because he is so outgoing and such a strong presenter.
Now let’s think about this for a moment: You’re in a competition with experts mentoring you who know the standards required to win over those Food Network executives. Giada, Bobby, and Alton have absolutely nothing to gain or lose by the contestants getting a show—or going home. Their intentions are only to give feedback to improve the performance of their mentees. Whether or not the contestants choose to accept the feedback is entirely up to them. (I didn’t get to watch the entire episode to see if one of those contestants was actually voted off this particular week—I’ll find out!).
This episode led me to think about when students ask for feedback from their professors and don’t take the feedback they are given. Or, even when they don’t ask for feedback, but the prof gives ideas for improvement anyway. The student lets the information go in one ear, right out the other, and just takes the assignment in whichever way he/she desires.
I have seen this happen time and time again with speech outlines and interpersonal communication papers. I am a prof who will review work ahead of time, provided it comes in early enough for me to really give a good once-over. My feedback is typically substantive and thoughtful. Most students take my suggestions to improve their work.
Other students are like The Next Food Network Star contestants I mentioned: They go their own way.
What usually happens then?
Well, I have to grade the work accordingly. If the “go your own way” work meets the objectives of the assignment, then the grade will reflect that the standards were met. If those objectives were not met, then the grade will be low.
You can only imagine what happens then.
Let’s just say profs are not spared like Giada, Alton, and Bobby.
The contestants usually own up and say, “Yeah, I took a risk and it didn’t really pan out.”
For professors, when students do their own thing on assignments, it’s because we graded unfairly or we didn’t give good feedback.
Students, what I want you to remember is that your professors are just like Giada, Alton, and Bobby.
(Except no one does our make-up and our work kitchens consist of maybe one tiny sink).
We have absolutely nothing to lose or gain by you taking our advice.
Think about it: Your professors all have their degrees. Our education is over. When we give you feedback about your work, particularly feedback in advance of grading your work, that advice is meant to make your work better. We want you to improve!
So what’s the communication lesson here?
If you want to go your own way after being given feedback, at least do so in an informed manner. In other words, you know what I’m going to suggest: Have a transparent conversation and be honest about your desire to do what you want to do.
Say to your professor, “I see that you suggested I do the assignment this way. I really wanted to go about it like this (then explain). Can you tell me your concerns about my approach?”
If you feel hell-bent on continuing with your path, say, “I respect what you’re telling me, but I feel really strongly about moving forward in my direction. Can you tell me what consequences I might face? What might happen with my grade?”
If you feel heck-bent on moving forward, say “I see where you’re coming from with your suggestions. How could I keep some of what I’m trying to do and adopt some of what you’re saying, as well?”
At every turn, always find out what consequences you’ll face. You do not want to be blindsided thinking that you will receive a higher outcome than what you will actually attain.
Wonderful students, messages about charting your own course and paving your own way can be incredibly confusing, particularly in college when you need to meet particular objectives and standards for a grade. Sometimes, your way needs to give way to what is required. Other times, you may decide that you can stomach the ramifications of doing what you want to do.
Have a conversation with your prof (or whoever is evaluating/mentoring you). Then make a mindful decision.
I know you’ll make one that is right for you.
#Students, are you reading Chapter 30 of Say This, NOT That to Your Professor to appropriately, professionally challenge a professor, should the need arise? (Parents, is your college student ready to self-advocate?). Have you taken a look inside?