The Truth Hurts: Giving Constructive Criticism


Sharing—and receiving—criticism on a project at work is tough. “Threats to our standing in the eyes of others are remarkably potent biologically, almost as those to our very survival,” explains psychologist Daniel Goleman. In our brains, criticism is seen as a threat to our survival. If criticism isn’t presented well, our brains try to protect us from the threat, which can prevent us from benefiting and improving our eLearning work.

As challenging as it is to give criticism on an eLearning course carefully, ensuring that the delivery is smooth and organized can be a huge help. Collaboration software like ReviewLink™ can allow team members, SMEs, and anyone involved in the development process to share feedback in an efficient way, when used correctly. And following the tips below can help prevent constructive criticism from coming across as a threat to fellow colleagues.

Special thanks to our Lead Content Developer at Trivantis, Wendy Miller, for sharing her tips for giving and receiving constructive criticism in ReviewLink.

5 tips for giving constructive criticism in ReviewLink:

1. Be very specific about what your comment is referring to. If you are commenting on a piece of content that isn't always visible on the page, like a popup or a tab, state where to find the content. Avoid vague and unhelpful generalizations such as “Not engaging” unless you plan to provide specifics about how to improve it.

2. Always clearly state the action to be taken by the developer. If more than one person is reviewing the content and there are differing opinions on an issue, try to resolve the conflict and state the action to be taken before sending the course back to the developer.

3. Be diplomatic. “That picture sucks” is not a useful comment. There are no language police on ReviewLink, but try to be as diplomatic as you can and always make a suggestion for how you would like to see something changed or improved.

4. Be a guide. When you provide feedback, you can suggest alternate ideas, but don’t be authoritarian about it. Think of the review process as a conversation, and don’t make your feedback the voice of final authority. Even though you may have a good plan, you still want the developer to have ownership of the course. Here’s a great article with more rules for giving feedback.

5. If more than 1 person is reviewing, read all existing comments first before making a new comment. Your issue may have already been posted and you can add to the conversation if necessary. Make the Comment Summary unique from any existing comments on the page if possible. This will make it easier for the developer to find and address individual issues.

What are your suggestions for giving constructive criticism on an eLearning course? Share them in the comments below.

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