Monthly Archives: September 2015

Teaching Tips: Helping Students Accept Criticism

by Janet Mizrahi

[Instructors: You can download the student handout “Taking Criticism: A Student’s Guide” below.]

Sometimes college students are assessed on tangibles such as the correct answer to an equation. Other assignments measure intangibles such as the quality of a student’s argument or idea. However, as instructors of writing, we are called upon almost daily to critique both: our students’ content and correctness. For many millennials who have been rewarded merely for showing up and trying hard, this sort of criticism can be hard to take.

I have had to make adjustments to the way I teach millennials to help them accept the criticism they are bound to shutterstock_275751935_OCTreceive when I grade their business communication assignments. I prime them at the beginning of the quarter when I challenge them to see criticism as a gift. I stress the idea that students are in class to learn how to write in an entirely different style than is used in academics, and that it is natural to make errors along the way. My job is to show them those errors.

I also try to help students understand that criticism at the college level differs from the criticism they received in high school, where teachers are looking to increase student self-esteem as well as correct errors. This often makes their critiques less direct. College instructors have a different set of goals. We want to increase proficiency as well as correct errors, and when we do so, we may be more straightforward in our critiques.

I often weave my arguments about taking criticism into class discussions before students turn in their work. I make the following points:

  • Criticism of writing is not a personal attack; work product differs from the individual who produced it.
  • Instructors’ criticism is based on their mastery of the subject and is intended to help students improve their writing.
  • College helps students become better critical thinkers and more valuable employees when they enter the workplace; criticism designed to help them improve will make them more “workplace ready” and less thin skinned.
  • Employers will be far less generous in their critiques than a professor.
  • Part of the transition to adulthood and workplace behavior is learning how to accept criticism gracefully.

By priming students to expect criticism, I have reduced complaints about grading. I hope I also have helped mold my students into more mature individuals.

What is your experience with assessing your students? How do they take criticism? Start a conversation!


Taking Criticism: A Guide for Students

Part of getting the most out of your college education is learning how to accept criticism. In fact, being able to be “teachable” or “coachable” is key to success not only in college, but in the workplace, too.

The following pointers can help you understand how to grow from criticism to your work instead of feeling attacked or hurt.

  1. Distance yourself from the critique. Read or listen to your instructor’s remarks carefully and let some time go by before challenging the grade or critique. Go back to the assignment to see if you might have misread it.
  2. Consider your role in the critique. As you consider the feedback, think about how you may have contributed to it. Did you follow instructions? Meet the assignment’s parameters? Understand that instructors find it particularly frustrating to receive assignments that blatantly ignore clearly laid out directions. Acknowledge your own part in the critique.
  3. Remember that professors are human. Although most professors try to take students’ feelings into consideration when giving criticism, they may deliver their message in frustration or anger. In some cases, a professor simply has a blunt style. Try to ignore the delivery and instead concentrate on understanding the problem. It is more useful to analyze feedback dispassionately.
  4. Don’t forget that criticism is not personal. Realize that professors likely have no reason to single you out for undeserved criticism (unless you have given them one!) No one likes being wrong, but it’s normal to not “get” something the first time out. Put defensive feelings aside.
  5. Make sure you understand the criticism. Ask thoughtful questions that show you want to avoid making the same mistake. If your professor is not making something clear, explain what would make you understand the critique better.
  6. Avoid asking your professor what you can do to get an “A.” Professors are there to teach you to find answers, not to give you answers. Instead, use open-ended questions such as “How might I approach this so I improve next time?”
  7. Attend office hours. Take the time to meet with your professor to obtain further explanations or to discuss difficulties you are having. Professors want their students to succeed.
  8. Thank your professor for the feedback—and move on. If someone has taken the time to offer you feedback—whether it’s a coach, parent, or teacher—you should be appreciative whether you agree with the assessment or not. Once you’ve done that, let go of any bitterness you may feel. You cannot please everyone all of the time. Learn from your mistakes and feel proud that you have behaved in a mature and gracious manner.

Taking Criticism-student handout

Employers Start to Give Millennials the Axe…How to Leave a Job Gracefully… Indulge in Temptation to Thwart Procrastination?

Employers Start to Give Millennials the Axe

Employers are fed up with millennials’ attitudes toward work, and their behavior is beginning to cause seriousshutterstock_182400230_OCT blowback. An article in Inc. Magazine provides advice for millennials who want to stay employed.

  • Be proactive. Employers are not parents and do not want to coach new hires. An employee is paid to do a job. Providing extensive on-the-job training doesn’t make financial sense to employers. Instead, millennials should take training into their own hands to close skill gaps and find a mentor from whom they can solicit advice confidentially.
  • Show some work ethic. A new employer will be less than impressed if a new- hire comes in late or leaves the second the clock hits 5 p.m. Showing commitment to work will result in gaining trust and respect.
  • W-O-R-K isn’t spelled F-U-N. Millennials who want to work in a fun place with “cool” perks like on-site meals and gym memberships often quickly become unhappy with their jobs. That’s because job satisfaction comes from internal motivation and doing a task well, not from receiving constant approval, praise, and perks.

— From

How to Leave a Job Gracefully

Employees who are off to a new job should keep quiet if they have negative feelings about the position they are leaving. The following advice offers guidance to employees who want to leave on good terms—and know that they can rely on their soon-to-be prior place of employment for a good recommendation down the line.

  • Vent elsewhere, not in the office, and only with those not connected to the job.
  • Remember those with whom you used to work may cross your path again as a colleague.
  • Hand off your projects to someone else before you leave, and work hard through your last day.
  • Provide diplomatic reasons (such as a better opportunity) for leaving rather than complaining about the job or supervisor.
  • Make your goal to leave with your relationships and reputation intact.

–From The Wall Street Journal

 Indulge in Temptation to Thwart Procrastination?

Research conducted by Katherine Milkman from the Wharton School has shown that temptation building—combining a tempting behavior with a more productive one—can provide procrastinators with the best of both worlds.

She found that combining one tempting activity, such as reading a page-turner, and one more productive but less anticipated activity—say, working out at the gym—led to positive outcomes. This bundling of instantly rewarding activities with less gratifying ones works especially well when the procrastinator can only indulge in the fun activity while also being productive. Milkman’s research noted that slips are bound to occur but that planning situations to minimize temptations helps procrastinators keep on track.

–From Fast Company


Case Study: Bakery Owners Get Burned on Social Media

Businesses large and small are turning to social media to expand their customer bases and to garner attention. However, not all attention is good attention, especially when businesspeople show poor judgment.

Samy and Amy Bouzaglo

Samy and Amy Bouzaglo

Such was the case with Amy’s Baking Company and Bakery Boutique + Bistro in Scottsdale, Arizona. The restaurant, owned by husband and wife Samy and Amy Bouzaglo, had received negative notices on social media. Subsequently, Chef Gordon Ramsay visited the bistro to feature it on Kitchen Nightmares. During filming, he found much to criticize, and neither of the Bouzaglos took Ramsay’s criticism well. An altercation took place between the celebrity chef and the restaurant owners, and Ramsay and his crew left when Amy told Ramsay they “don’t need his help.” The show aired and resulted in an onslaught of negative posts on the restaurant’s Facebook page.

In response, the Bouzaglos reacted with venom, posting the following:

You are all little punks. Nothing. you are all nothing. We are laughing at you. All of you, just fools. We have God on our side, you just have your sites.

You are trash.

I am not stupid, all of you are.

Your task. Review the discussion of social media in your textbook (Essentials of Business Communication 10e Chapter 5; Business Communication: Process and Product 8e, Chapter 8). Working in small groups, discuss what the Bouzaglos did wrong. Then rewrite the posts using positive language and bridge-building strategies.

Suggested responses 

We urge you to visit the restaurant yourselves to see just how wrong Chef Ramsay was. Be sure to try Amy’s delicious desserts!! Your taste buds will thank you!

It’s never easy to hear criticism and we definitely blew it with Chef Ramsay. Come judge the restaurant for yourself. We’re offering a free dessert to the first 100 who visit  Amy’s within the next week!

How did your students do with this exercise? Share their responses!