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What is the problem?

After reading Chris Argyris's 'Teaching smart people how to learn' article I began to reflect on my behaviour towards feedback from others. And I realised that I am not really good at taking people's feedback on my performance especially when I have done my best. So what is an effective way to deal with this kind of behaviour or attitude?

How did I come across this problem?

As I reflected after reading the assigned readings, my thoughts took me to when I received negative yet constructive and helpful (now that I have changed my behaviour) feedback from students and Peter about one of my reflective journals. Argyris mentioned in his article that one technique people use to deal with such things is to be defensive. So my defensive action was to block out these feedbacks and make myself forget that they even existed. I have thought about my action and have asked myself why? Argyris answers this by saying that defensiveness is mostly because of the fear of failure or the fear of experiencing the fear of failure. I am the type of student that takes things seriously. Writing reflective journals may not be a big deal to others, but to me it is (failure is not an option). Argyris also talks about how being defensive will block the opportunity to learn. This has helped me realise that I am being a hypocrite, I say to myself that I am learning when I am actually stopping myself from learning.  I am not helping myself if I keep on being defensive. If I want to learn my attitude or behaviour in dealing with feedback should change.

How can things be done differently?

I have realised my problem and have discovered that the fear of failure is one of the hurdles that I should overcome. Instead of thinking of failure as not an option, I should think of it as a possibility if I do not learn to improve or improve at all. No one is perfect and everyone will have to experience failure at least once in their life time. We should not judge ourselves on our failures but how we pick ourselves up, learn and then move on. Another hurdle is complaining and taking feedback to heart. Yes, feedback should be taken in but not to the point where you think that you are just useless and its better if you should just forget about it. Feedback should be seen as a help to improve. We might feel demotivated by receiving negative feedback but remembering it as a learning tool will make things easier to take in. 

What action should I now take?

After reflecting and analysing I have come to a  conclusion that I should take in feedback and not be defensive or offended. This process may take a while but it will give me the opportunity to actually learn and improve. 


Argyris, C. (1991). Teaching smart people how to learnReflections, 4(2), 4--15


  1. Hi Charity,

    Your journal was structured well and you clearly followed Daudelin's structure. You gave an example with the learning journal feedback and then explained why your responded defensively.

    One thing for improvement; after reading your journal I wasn't entirely convinced that you have come up with an effective strategy or action that will allow you to take feedback and learn from it. You could have possibly put more thought into this section of your journal to support your good reflection paragraph. You stated that you need to overcome your fear of failure, however didn't elaborate on how exactly you plan to do this? You then could have talked about how difficult this process would be - i.e. sometimes we are not consciously aware that we are behaving defensively so how would you monitor this etc.

    But overall a really good journal and your ideas were well written and easy to follow.

  2. The structure of your journal was laid out well, making it easy to extract the key content which pertained to Daudelin's framework. This added to the quality of your journal, as it helped me to follow your train of thought effortlessly. In saying that, I feel as though you could have added extra depth to your journal by drawing on additional concepts in the readings or your own thoughts and used them to develop your explanation in paragraph three. For example, you could have further expanded on how feedback is an effective tool in helping to improve performance, then continued by stating you would use the feedback to your advantage and follow it strictly to improve the quality of your journals. As Carina outlined, you were very vague about how you planned to learn from and overcome the feedback process. In future, it would be useful to provide the reader with explicit examples, not only to close the learning loop, but also show your level of understanding and analysis. Otherwise, keep up the good work!