Giving and Getting Constructive Criticism

Marybeth Gasman:

I’ve been thinking about constructive criticism-the kind we give to graduate students or mentees-and how they receive it. Over the past few years I’ve noticed a bit of push back from students and mentees. My faculty friends and colleagues have told me they get the same kind of push back. Now, don’t misunderstand me, there is nothing wrong with push back-you have to stand up for what you believe. However, I’ve watched individuals struggle and have difficulty with their job search while neglecting to follow any of the advice their mentors have given them. Sometimes these students are headstrong. Other times they are convinced that they know what is best and that they know how to build a faculty career. Here are a few examples:
I have had students and mentees who present at academic conferences on a regular basis but they don’t publish the resulting papers. Many times, I’ve attended their conference presentations and have been thoroughly impressed with their ideas and skill. I always follow up, asking them to revise the paper and send it to a journal. However, unlike their counterparts who follow my advice, these students put the paper away for months, sometimes years, and it is no longer relevant or others have already published similar work. When they receive feedback from prospective employers that questions their lack of publications, they are frustrated.