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Instructor Feedback - Don’t Shoot the Messenger

Posted by Tami Riggs

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May 25, 2021 11:00:00 AM

CartoonStock_505786_CS283210 1080pxA good instructor will evaluate your school performance in much the same way that a supervisor will assess your execution of work responsibilities. You will receive feedback on your knowledge, recall, competence, quality of product, completeness, communication skills, time management, punctuality, and more.

Sometimes that feedback can make you feel threatened and insecure.

Before shifting the blame for any shortcomings to your instructor, remember that getting better at anything requires feedback and follow-up. Accepting feedback, even if it is not candy-coated, is an opportunity to improve, grow your competencies, and advance your career. Faculty move into higher education because they genuinely like to teach. They care about their profession and want to make a difference – connecting with students is a big part of that. Keep the following points in mind the next time you receive instructor feedback:

  1. A great law instructor will set high expectations. These expectations are a precursor to the expectations that a law firm or lawyer will have for a paralegal or law graduate. Some instructors may not have a light touch or be warm and fuzzy in their delivery of feedback. They will challenge student work, point out mistakes, expand ideas, and promote self-sufficiency. They can be tough – just like attorneys. Consider this: Do you want an honest evaluation now, when it only affects your grades, or do you want to be encouraged into a false sense of security and then learn about your deficiencies by losing a job? 
  1. Feedback and grades are highly emotional issues in higher learning institutions. Students often perceive instructor feedback as a judgment of their personal character, but feedback is really a reflection of how the instructor views a student’s ability at a given point in time. Feedback is necessary for improvement, and it can be used as a mechanism for positive change and professional success. When an instructor points out an error or shortcoming it is done to help improve student work, grades, and ultimately, job readiness. It will be important that you look at the weak points and the steps you can take to avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

  2. A student’s ability to take the positives out of feedback can be the difference between having a mediocre career and one that is outstanding. Feedback is a gift no matter how it is packaged. Learning to accept it is an important skill that can increase future performance. Listen to the message and determine what can be done differently. Try to gain as much clarity as possible. Focus on what mistakes you can correct and how you can improve in your course rather than on how the message is delivered. Weaknesses can be intentionally strengthened with practice, time, and desire. 
  1. Think of your paralegal training and legal education as an apprenticeship where you can hone your skills. Skills are not fixed. Reskilling (learning adjacent, lateral skills), and upskilling (learning new, advanced skills) will be part of your educational journey as well as your professional development following graduation. What you are learning now will take you far beyond the four walls of a classroom, whether it is virtual, or campus-based. While it can be difficult to have shortcomings illuminated, feedback sheds light on improvements that can be made in work product. It should be viewed as an opportunity to create higher standards for yourself. After all, practice does not make perfect if you are practicing wrong.

Law classes can be tedious and challenging, but high learning standards imposed by instructors lead to greater student development and achievement. Don’t shoot the messenger for revealing a truth that is hard to hear. Listen to understand and not to defend. It can open your eyes to blind spots in your knowledge and skills and provide you with an opportunity to learn and improve. Treat it as such.

Career services at Center for Advanced Legal Studies is available to assist student alumni in their pursuit of employment opportunities. We are leaders in paralegal education and provide specialized career counseling upon graduation. Contact us today at paralegal.edu to learn more about our accredited paralegal programs and to schedule a consultation! 

Tami Riggs 125px Tami Riggs
Director of Outreach and Career Services

Tami has an extensive and varied professional background that spans criminal justice, paralegal education, and international school marketing and communication. Her career has been guided by a focus on developing strategic partnerships that facilitate school growth and student opportunity. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Texas State University.

Topics: faculty, online classes, graduates and alumni, featured

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