How to Deal with Criticism of Your Teaching Style

There is no failure, only feedback.

But as much as we might know this implicitly sometimes the way feedback is given can make it feel like we’ve failed. The problem is particularly acute with teaching, as so many of the outcomes can sometimes be subjective. Were a class really engaged? Were students making sufficient progress? Was that lesson ‘good’?

So even if it’s not given in the right way, how do you turn criticism into positive feedback that will help you improve?

Keep your cool

When you’re receiving the feeback, listen without showing any negative or defensive emotions. This is difficult, but essential.

Summarise the key points

Outline what the other person has said to make sure you have understood them correctly and also to show that you have taken it all in.

Ask questions

The more specific the criticism, the more helpful. Find out what you did, when you did it, and what gave your critic the impression they have.


Criticism is rarely groundless, but often exaggerated.  Decide which elements are useful and thus what you can do differently to be more effective.

Put yourself in their shoes

Think about how the person who seems to be criticising you looks at the world.  Could they have been trying to help? Are they under pressure themselves? Think about why they have these views about you.

Get them on your side

Ask those who criticise you for their advice. By making them part of the solution (as mentor, coach or whatever) they are less likely to criticise you in future.

Be grateful

Thank people who criticise you. Not only have they given you free information but you will also disarm them (and they are likely to think better of you immediately, which can’t be bad).

Think positive

Reframe criticism that focuses on what went badly.  Consider what positive steps you can take to improve in the future.

Hit the punchbag, not the person

If you are angry, take it out on something, not someone. It’s understandable to be annoyed, but not very useful.

I hope you find that useful. I’d love to hear some of your feedback about great advice you’ve received, or for that matter criticism delivered really badly! Do comment below or tweet me @creativeedu