How To Handle Negative Feedback from Your Professor

Getting negative feedback on your work is something a lot of people are afraid of. Especially if you are receiving negative feedback for the first time or on a project/paper dear to your heart, it can be hard to handle. Sometimes you are trying your best, but there is still room to improve. Your professor’s job is to actually help you with that, so you can become even better in your chosen field. However, for this to work you need to be able to accept criticism. Let’s tackle this today and talk about how to handle negative feedback from your professor. 

woman in yellow long sleeve shirt holding book, professor giving feedback
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5 Tips on How to Respond to Criticism and to Turn It Into Something Good for You

1. Don’t take it to heart

First of all, try to never take any criticism or negative feedback on your term paper or project personally. Negative feedback doesn’t mean that you are a bad student or that you didn’t try your best. It simply means that your professor is able to point out ways or actions through which your project can be even better. Not taking criticism personally is one of the hardest challenges you will face during your career as a student and later on as a professional. 

2. Take your time to process it before you react

It’s easy to have an emotional reaction to negative feedback. Most people’s reaction to criticism is most likely anger or sadness. And while it’s totally ok to later on vent to your friends about it and to let all the emotions out, you shouldn’t do that while you are still in your professor’s office. Try to remain calm and to process what your professor is trying to tell you, so you can move on to my next tip and improve your situation.

3. Ask for clarification and how to improve

Vague feedback doesn’t really help anybody. Make sure you understand the points your professor is making and how to improve them. For example if they are criticizing your sources for a term paper, ask them which ones are especially problematic in the first step. In the second step, ask them ​​why they don’t hold up to their standard until you fully understand it. And then at last ask them if they have any other sources in mind that they think are “better”. The same goes if they are criticizing your writing or how you tackle a problem or question.

4. Try to understand your professor’s point of view

This is one of the hardest things to do while you are getting negative feedback: try to put yourself in your critic’s point of view. This can help you with understanding the criticism or feedback better and to improve in the future. You need to see the other side of the coin. What seems acceptable to you may not be to others.

5. Determine for yourself if it’s constructive feedback

Now, in the first four tips we have assumed that you are dealing with a professor who is giving you well-intentioned criticism to create a positive change in your work, which is also called constructive criticism. If a professor actually wants you to hand in an improved work, he will be ready to work with you or make suggestions on how to improve. However, there is always the possibility of you facing a professor who doesn’t take the teaching part too seriously. So if they don’t provide a reason behind their criticism, or you feel like they may have other motives, make sure to get a second opinion (of a student advisor or a professor who teaches something similar) on your work and decide for yourself if you wanna take action based on this feedback.

Receiving negative feedback is not an easy task. At the end of the day, it is pretty likely that we will all have to handle criticism in our life. Nobody is perfect, and you will never be able to always deliver the exact paper or performance people expect of you.

Negative feedback is a chance to learn, so you don’t make similar mistakes in the future. It’s important that you don’t let the fear of a negative outcome paralyze you. I hope those 5 tips on how to handle negative feedback from your professor will help you in the future.

While you are here, make sure to check out our latest posts on How to Respond to Racist or Discriminatory Comment and How to Know That You Are Stressed Out and Need a Break.

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