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Any old farmer in Vermont can tell you that you don’t fatten your lambs by weighing them.
To succeed as a team is to hold all of the members accountable for their expertise.
Jonathan Kozol’s point about lambs was that improving something requires that we do more than just check to see if it’s getting better. As we’ve noted in the past several sections with respect to motivation and collaboration in groups, such positive change also requires hard work, concentration, persistence, patience, and a willingness to invest personal energy and time on behalf of goals.
Although he said that weighing lambs by itself will not fatten them, Kozol didn’t say that weighing them isn’t important at all. If a farmer does nothing but feed and tend animals, after all, how will the farmer know if the feeding and tending are working? And the same thing goes for group communication: if members of a group do nothing but work hard and concentrate intensively on pursuing their goals, how will they know if they’re actually moving in the right direction?
Feeding and tending of animals are necessary for them to grow, just as tending a group is necessary for it to progress toward its goals. But for farmers, as well as for members of groups, so are feedback and assessment. As ThompsonThompson, L. (2008). Organizational behavior today. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education. wrote, “It is the feedback element that is the critical ingredient in producing change in behavior.” Motivation, in short, depends on both feedback and assessment.
FeedbackCommunication with another person or persons in response to a message or with respect to an impression you have of the person(s). is a general term which simply means communicating with someone in response to a message from that person or with respect to a perception you have about him or her. In day-to-day conversations, it may be a straightforward descriptive comment about facts that happen to catch your attention, like “It looks like you just got a haircut.” In a group, an example of feedback might be something like “You’ve completed your part of the project now.”
AssessmentA variety of feedback which expresses judgment about the value, significance, or merit of someone else’s nature or behavior., on the other hand, is one variety of feedback. It is an expression of judgment about the value, significance, or merit of a person’s nature or behavior. Instead of just describing someone’s haircut or indicating that the person has finished a project, an assessment might be more like “Your haircut looks great” or “It’s about time you finished your part of the project.”
When you transmit any message to other people, and particularly if you share an impression or perception about them, you’re asking them to enter a communication transaction with you. They’re going to have to focus on your message and use mental energy to decide how to respond. When, then, should you ask people to make this kind of effort by giving them feedback? What kind should you give? And how much? Answering these questions constitutes a normal part of everyday human life with people with whom we interact routinely, but it’s a particularly challenging part of working in a group with people whom we may not know as well as we do our family or close friends. Offering assessment can be even more difficult, since it puts us at risk of making a mistake or upsetting other people.
One source of group motivation is a sense of movement and growth. Therefore, among the most useful tools in preparing to provide feedback and assessment are benchmarksQualitative or quantitative descriptions of a group’s initial conditions to be used later for comparative purposes.. These are qualitative or quantitative descriptions of a group’s initial conditions to be used later for comparative purposes. For example, a newly-formed student group might make a list of how many and which books they have read by a particular author or on a particular assigned topic.
Feedback and assessment should be planned and delivered carefully and intentionally. If they are to motivate people in a group, they should possess the following characteristics:
In order to assist and motivate group members, it’s important to select the proper items to collect and express feedback and assessment about. Here are some possible topics about which feedback can be given:
Other topics which your group should consider pertain to assessment, including the following:
As Mitchell Caplan’s quotation at the beginning of this section indicated, success in groups does depend at least in part on drawing upon the strengths of their members. Feedback and assessment make it possible to determine whether those strengths are being properly exploited and maximized for the benefit of the group.
Feedback and assessment in groups should possess definite characteristics and deal with well-thought-out subjects.