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Decoding Learner Feedback Dissatisfaction: Medium Issues

What are your learners' medium-related feedback concerns?

*This multi-part series describes ten common learner feedback complaints and how to identify which ones underlie your learner's feedback concerns.

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The fifth type of feedback complaint is about the MEDIUM used to convey the feedback. These complaints speak to “where” or “through what means” the feedback is provided. MEDIUM-related concerns apply to both written and verbal feedback messages. These may include comments about:

  • The means or channel used to deliver the feedback (e.g. a text, an email, a phone call, formal evaluation, in person)

  • Whether the learner thought that medium was most appropriate for the situation (e.g. messages best conveyed in person, messages best conveyed through texts)


How can you determine if your learners' feedback concerns are MEDIUM-related?

Your learners are highly unlikely to say, "I have MEDIUM-related feedback concerns" (unless they took a communication course). Instead, they will likely say, “I should have received feedback through a different means (text, phone, in person).”


Specific statements may sound like:

  • “I can’t believe they texted me about this important issue. Surely we could have talked through it.”

  • “I got an email telling me what was wrong instead of having a conversation about it. How am I supposed to learn without being able to ask questions?”

  • "I get so nervous talking to them in person. I wish they just sent me a text or email instead of holding a meeting."

  • “It would have been nice to receive a written heads up about what we were going to discuss in our meeting, so I could have mentally prepared myself.”

  • “I just got a nasty text from this person. Why couldn’t they have told me I was being rude when we were talking two minutes ago?”

  • “Our conversation had so many details, I couldn’t process them all. I wish they had sent a follow-up email with the key points so I could work on them.”


MEDIUM-related comments most frequently come up in programs or cultures that:

  • Have multi-generations with different preferences, expectations, and standards for using communication tools

  • Have a mixture of direct and indirect communicators

  • Are conflict-averse

  • Have learners reply to feedback with resistance, defensiveness, or hostility

  • Have faculty who do not feel properly prepared for or safe providing difficult conversations in person


What if the feedback issue is not MEDIUM-related?


Many learners' concerns about where the feedback is delivered are overshadowed by how the feedback is delivered. In the next post, I will discuss delivery STYLE-related feedback concerns and how to identify them.


Next Steps


Which medium do you prefer to use when you are delivering difficult feedback messages? When you are receiving difficult feedback, which medium do you prefer others to use? Are your answers the same or different? Share your comments or ask a question below.


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