Feedback & PairingJune 15, 2015 · 4 Minute Read
Below are my responses to some questions about the experiences of giving/recieving feedback and peer programming (pairing).
What was it like to pair with others to solve challenges?
Sometimes I felt held back, other times I felt pulled forward. I'm not sure yet which factors impact whether it will be the first case or the second. I've experienced both with the same person, so I know the success of the pairing is not wholly dependent on the individuals involved.
Was something particularly fun or rewarding?
Coming up with something clever in front of another person, and having them be impressed. Almost as fun when it happens in reverse.
Was something frustrating and difficult for you?
There are two scenarios that are difficult for me:
Either my partner doesn't understand a concept, and I don't slow down enough to explain it properly. Because, obviously, if I explained it properly, then my partner would understand (sarcasm). Or I don't know what to do next and neither does my pair - this leads to panic for me. I hate not knowing what to try next (or who to ask for help) and it's much worse for me when this happens in front of another person.
How did you feel when you read your feedback?
Uncomfortable, embarassed, stressed/anxious, grateful, angry.
Most of my feedback so far has been positive and all of it has been considerate. I strongly dislike being evaluated by anyone but myself. I sometimes live in this fantasy that no one can see me unless I want them to, and that's just not the world we live in. I will say that I strongly prefer direct criticism to 'softly worded' criticism. The latter just feels insulting to me.
Was the feedback you received helpful to your learning?
I don't have any way of objectively measuring how helpful feedback has been for my learning, but my opinion is that feedback is a good thing.
Based on the feedback you've received, what are you going to do to improve next time you pair?
The fact that I'm being evaluated is an incentive to always give my best. I will endeavor for patience, consideration, and inclusiveness.
How was it to write feedback?
Challenging. I haven't had any practice until now wearing the reviewer's monocle. It's not natural yet for me to provide actionable suggestions.
What was most difficult for you when writing feedback for your pair?
What can I put on offer that might help my pair improve as a web developer?
There's a direct comparison I would like to make between assisting a yoga student and coming up with valuable feedback. A yoga pose looks 'right' when the student has muscular engagement, proper alignment, and a sense of peace or ease. As an assistant, I first look to bring the student into the 'correct' pose by looking to those three properties. I can provide one adjustment per student (any more than one adjustment at a time, and a student will feel 'corrected', when that is not the intent of assisting), so I look for the most outstanding variance in either muscular engagement, alignment, or 'efforting' and provide one assist to counteract it. The intent is to bring the student into feeling whole, complete, and balanced in thier own body.
It's not something you can do for the student. In just the same way, becoming a better web developer is not something I can do for my cohort-mates. I can provide feedback - the equivalent of the yoga assist. I look for one thing that my pair can work on that might bring them more into their own strength as a developer. The comprable qualities that make up a 'correct' web developer's posture are (if my metaphor doesn't break here): mental engagement in the problem/process, efficiency (makes good use of tools like keyboard shortcuts, online resources, and REPLs), and a lack of personal attachment to outcomes that often translates to a sense of ease and more considerate communication with teammates.
I wouldn't say it's difficult to come up with good feedback, but it does often require significant consideration on my part.
Overall, what do you think of using pairing and feedback to guide your learning?
I love pairing. It provides the essential human connection that I need to succeed in my learning. Feedback is good too. I don't enjoy reading it, and I may not always learn from it, but I recognize that it is a valuable mechanism in the success of the group as a whole. Like I stated above, having prior knowledge that you will be 'graded' is good motivation to perform at your best, insofar as you are able.