How Feedback Can Lead to an Excellent Academic Partnership

Throughout Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild,” the idea of partnership is explored in a unique way. Gan has just threatened to kill himself and let T’Gatoi implant her eggs into his sister, Hoa. At this point, when Gan says, “If we’re not your animals, if these are adult things, accept the risk. There is risk, Gatoi, in dealing with a partner,” he has told T’Gatoi that he wants to keep his gun so his family can protect him someday (Butler 26). This quote is relevant because it is illegal for Gan to have this weapon, so by letting him keep it, T’Gatoi would have to compromise and let him break the law. She ends up handing the gun back to him, and in exchange he allows her to implant eggs into him that night. This was the beginning of, for all the reader knows, a long partnership, as the story ends with T’Gatoi saying, “I won’t leave you as Lomas was left—alone, N’Tlic. I’ll take care of you” (Butler 29). Although different from working on a group project, they still display a partnership that will last a very long time. T’Gatoi and Gan are just one example of the way we have explored partnership this semester. This epigraph and the events surrounding it is a great representation that through giving and receiving feedback, a partnership has the ability to be very successful. T’Gatoi and Gan expressed exactly what they needed from each other and were able to make their partnership work. Throughout this semester, almost all of our conversations have explained a certain aspect of partnership and how feedback can make or break it, even if we did not notice in the moment. 

In each module, a new understanding of partnership and feedback was unlocked. Even from the very first “To the Forums!” assignment in module one we have been growing into academic partners. Although partnership is important between students, I also feel that we have each become partners with Professor McCoy in a way. In this first discussion, we shared our palimpsests, helping each other to see beyond the surface and into the depths of ourselves. After this assignment, Dr. McCoy advised me to weave in some more personal information which would help me begin the processes of unpacking my writing. This is where I believe we all began to reflect and internalize the fact that our readers cannot get inside of heads. Saying that different songs connect to certain emotions was not enough. More detail had to be added so my peers could understand just exactly what I meant by that. In They Say/I Say, by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein, it says, “we suggest that you summarize what ‘they say’ as soon as you can in your text” (Graff and Birkenstein 21). For this, “To the Forums!” assignment, I used Dr. McCoy as the “they.” I used what she said and applied it to my piece to help elevate my writing. If Dr. McCoy had never highlighted areas where my piece was lacking, I would have never learned or grown from my mistake.  

We then unlocked our ability to take care in what work we put forth and the feedback we are given. Leading to the prompt in “To the Forums! 2: Foundations for Care and Good Faith,” Dr. McCoy urged us “to commit now to conducting ourselves with each other in good faith.” This is something we have carried with us into our check-ins. We are essentially being held accountable because in an academic partnership, accountability is so important to create a good end product. This ties nicely into partner feedback because, while you are held accountable for your work, you are also accountable for taking care in the feedback you are given. In “Bloodchild,” we also see this level of care between T’Gatoi and Gan. Gan is quite obviously hesitant to let T’Gatoi implant her eggs into him, but because they both cared enough to hear each other out and compromise, they ended up having a successful partnership. They Say/I Say provides good strategies to take care in the feedback we are given. One suggestion made is, “starting with a summary of others’ views” (Graff and Birkenstein 21). This is a good way to make sure you are taking care in the feedback you are given. A good end product requires feedback, because simply agreeing will never allow you and your partner to reach your full potential.

We have also explored implicit bias. Although it is not as clear how this relates to partnership and feedback, it most certainly does. Implicit bias is bias based on something that people have internalized without even trying to, as described by Professor Jerry Kang in his TedTalk that we watched for “To the Forums! 3: What is Implicit Bias?” When working in a partnership, there are always preconceived notions, which is not fair. We will instinctually want to give feedback before seeing our partners’ final draft or before we really delve into their thought process. Feedback is important, however it must be given in an unbiased manor to be most impactful. Implicit bias is always a part of many aspects of partnership, whether we want it to be or not.

 We also looked into “Rules for Partnership,” which ties very nicely into partnership and how feedback can be very impactful. We examined all the rules both students and faculty must follow, which let us look into academic partnerships between students and their professors. There are certain rules that each group must follow in order to maintain a working partnership, with give and take on each side. For example, as students must not plagiarize, all faculty-led research done “must comply with the highest standards of ethical research practice and with applicable federal and state guidelines,” as stated in the “Research Compliance and Policies” section of Geneseo’s “College Policies” page. These rules did not just appear for some unknown reason. Although there probably was a baseline for the Geneseo students and staff rules, these were likely built upon by people asking questions and providing feedback from the Geneseo community. When looping this all back to “Bloodchild,” there is also an evident partnership between T’Gatoi and Gan, each with their own set of rules. The Terrans are supposed to let Tlic implant their eggs into them in exchange for providing a safe home for the Terrans. These rules are analogous to the rules in place for Geneseo students and staff because it shows the give and take that must occur in a partnership. We do not see as much feedback in “Bloodchild,” however, I am sure compromises were made on the part of Tlic and the Terrans to come to their agreement. Although different than the partnership we are used to seeing, the partnership between the administration and the students is very strong because of student feedback over the years.  

We then gained a lot of insight from Dr. Cope, the Associate Provost for Academic Success. He shared such great information that can not only aid us in academic partnership, but also was proof of how important partnership and accepting feedback is throughout life. He explained how he works with other divisions to help aid him with their work towards student success. Even in his adult life, he is working very closely with others, proving just how important partnership is in the long run. His job focuses on making students as successful as possible during their time at Geneseo. As Dr. Cope explained to us, which I discussed in my “To the Forums! 11 Following up your 11/16 visit with Associate Provost for Student Success Joe Cope!” post, he “works to intervene when students bring forth issues about their academic experience.” This is how he uses student feedback to make sure he adjusts things properly for Geneseo students and their needs. 

GLOBE’s insistence that Geneseo students should gain practice in the ability to reflect upon changes in learning and outlook over time proves just how important feedback is. The best way to change a student’s point of view is through partnership. Within a good partnership, there should be feedback given that is reflected upon by the recipient. If all goes well, this feedback will be taken into consideration to change the student’s perspective and learning for the better. Throughout this semester, we have explored partnership in different ways than one would expect. We used unique topics like implicit bias and good faith to aid us. We even based a good majority of the class on a short story about aliens and humans living together. Some of these topics we went over did not seemingly have anything to do with partnership, yet they did. Even though I know this course is called “Risks and Rewards of Academic Partnership,” it was easy to forget this while exploring some of the topics. Now, as I reflect upon the semester, I see that each and every assignment has been progressing us towards this end goal of knowing what good academic partnership looks like. We unknowingly have molded ourselves into great academic partners using not only the modules of this course, but also by applying the feedback we have been given throughout the semester. 

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