The Importance of Constructive Criticism

Avoid Criticism

Avoid Criticism (Photo credit: Celestine Chua)

Constructive criticism is essential to the process of improvement in any domain.

It is always a major mistake for leaders in education, or any other field, to surround themselves with yes men who will only tell them what they want to hear.  There is a big difference between destructive criticism and constructive criticism, and I want to make it clear that this post only refers to genuine, constructive criticism which is offered in good faith, for the purpose of improving the organization.

This kind of criticism can take the form of approval or disapproval of actions or decisions taken by leaders.  Leaders generally have no problems with approval but some of them find it difficult to accept disapproval in the form of constructive criticism.  They must be secure enough to understand that criticism is just a type of feedback and evaluation which can actually be quite valuable.  In the school context, teachers are usually well educated thinkers who have their own perspectives on educational issues, and their insights cannot be ignored.  In fact, many of them have very useful ideas relative to school improvement.

Constructive criticism does not have to cause conflict.  It should be presented to leaders as an objective discussion and not as closed minded advice.  It should lead to a discussion or debate about the steps to be taken in the best interests of the students, staff and school.  This kind of criticism brings new ideas and approaches to the table and facilitates better decision making.  It only works, however, in an atmosphere of mutual trust and good faith.

The protagonists must respect each other and put the best interests of the school ahead of their own egos and personal agendas.  Anyone who offers constructive criticism must also present alternative courses of action or options to the leader.  Criticism should never be motivated by self-interest or a desire to harm the leader’s credibility.  Leaders, for their part, should not take constructive criticism personally and react with anger or rejection of the person involved.

Constructive criticism also involves giving praise when it is due.  When disapproval has to be expressed, the ideas or decisions of the leader should be criticized; not the leader himself, and the criticism must be very specific and geared towards organizational improvement.

A leader who surrounds herself with yes men will lose touch with reality and will make mistakes.  Leaders need to listen to constructive criticism without becoming defensive.  They must welcome it and consider it carefully.  However, at the end of the day, the leader retains the right to make his or her own decision after considering all the facts and the constructive criticism. Sometimes the constructive criticism will make a difference.

 

 

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