Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A List of Criteria to Tell Whether My Feedback is Experience-based

When I was in graduate school doing philosophy courses, we used to pose these "thought experiments" as a way of opening one's thinking about a problem.

In the past, I have done experiments such as "Imagine a student you teach arrives home from the first day of school. His parent(s) meet him at the door and say, "How was school today?' How do you want her to answer then they ask about your individual class? Write out your answer on a piece of paper. Now, how are you going to design your class so that she says those words?"

Or, "Imagine that the state has outlawed grades as a mechanism for giving feedback because of the research showing that grading retards development and growth. You have to design a new form of feedback. What would it look like?"

So, what follows (and I apologize if this gets dense or boring--sometimes doing these experiments results in this happening but it is part of the process. Sorry. My advice,  if that happens?  Skip to what you find interesting) is an experiment answering this question, "How many statements can you make that you think are true about experience-based feedback?"

So, here are a couple of premises that I think are true about feedback that is transformational followed by a list of statements that I think are true.  You can tell me which ones you agree with or not. Please feel free to comment, the feedback would be fun.

The Purpose of Feedback

     The main purpose of feedback is to support learning.  Learning, however, is not just about technical skill development and product enhancement - it is also about making people engaged, motivated and empowered in their learning.  Feedback, therefore, focuses not only on what has been learned but also on how people learn.  In short, feedback helps learners know how to improve and it develops the capacity for self-assessment.  Feedback should encourage intrinsic motivation, give learners a sense of authorship and control, build learner’s confidence in their own learning, and enhance their strategic awareness of how improve.  Feedback that achieves those goals is truly “experience-based.”

The following are criteria to determine whether feedback is experience-based or not:

            Feedback must be timely—late feedback is virtually worthless.
            Feedback on assessments (papers, tests, quizzes, presentations) has an emotionally charged feature that is critical to developing intrinsic motivation. To not take that into account when giving feedback is negligent, short-sighted and harmful.
            Feedback significantly affects peoples’ motivation and engagement. If your students are not motivated and are disengaged, look immediately at the feedback you are giving them rather than at them.
            Feedback should foster “care” and respond to a “need” on the part of the author.
            Feedback should be used to support learning, not competition.
            Feedback is best used to promote learning, not to measure it.
            Feedback is the single dominating factor in motivation.  Motivation comes in four major forms 1) task driven (intrinsic) 2) ego (competition) 3) social (fitting in and pleasing people) and 4) as means to an end (extrinsic).  Only the first is “harm-free” and developmentally sound.  Feedback should focus on the task not on the student. 
            Students faced with continued negative feedback develop “learned helplessness” in order to protect their self-esteem.

            Peoples’ persistence is related to how successful they think they expect to be. How successful they expect to be is largely determined by the feedback they get.        
            Developmentally sound feedback recognizes that intelligence is “flexible” not “fixed.” (You have to read Carol Dweck's book, Mindset, for a fuller explanation of these ideas)
            Self-efficacy precedes, and is the foundation of, self-esteem.
            Formative feedback is more important for development than summative feedback.
            Feedback that feels like judgment will undermine development.
            Feedback should always be designed to increase confidence.
            Feedback should always have a meta-cognitive feature to it.
            Feedback should always be designed to increase the feeling of autonomy of the learner not dependence.
            Learning is a social activity that benefits from collaboration.
            Feedback should be based on the Vygotsky model of 1) performance assisted by teachers 2) performance is self-assisted 3) performance has become internalized and almost automatic 4) performance seeks out the DKDK zone and copes with uncertainty.
            Feedback should be seen as part of a “dialogue” between author and responder.
            Developmentally sound feedback fosters a relationship between the author and their work as well as between the author and the responder.
            Feedback has the greatest developmental impact when it does not compare work to other students work but focuses on specific ways the work can be improved and on improvements from earlier work.
            Feedback that is developmentally sound assumes that students have a clear understanding of the assessment criteria. This is often a bad assumption, and has to be re-visited by both student and teacher.
            Feedback that is purely technical is less effective than feedback that has cathartic, catalytic and coaching value that inspires hope and confidence.
            Feedback that focuses on the process of learning (“sustainable feedback”) rather than only the outcome or performance will improve learning and subsequent performance. (I like this idea of feedback that is sustainable because it links so nicely to the idea of meta-cognition and self-knowledge on the part of the student.)
            Developmentally sound feedback must be separated from grading in order to be effective.

            Feedback in the form of “reflective assessment” with peers has a positive impact.
            Self-assessment feedback encourages students to think about the criteria that should be used in judging their work rather than relying solely on teachers to determine that criteria. (Therefore, each piece of student work should have an "author's page" attached in which the student explains to the teacher what they want feedback on and what questions remain in their minds about their work.)
            Students can get better at a task not only by doing the task but by increasing their capacity to give developmentally sound feedback.
            Feedback must be put to use after it is given.
            Feedback is most effective when students are responsible for the organization of their work, keep a record of their activities and make their own decisions about future actions.
            Feedback is for the teacher as much as it is for the student.

So, this is my list so far. Please feel free to add to it. It is what I have come to look at whenever I begin to think I am not really giving feedback that will foster transformation.

1 comment:

  1. So, I find myself nodding at much of what you've written. I am a teacher, and as I grade student's essay, I first form a picture of him or her in my mind, then I read the words and sentences. We - the student and I - are talking as I write; on a good day we will talk after I write.

    Yesterday, S. arrived in my office, bearing with him an essay with a liberal dose of the "blue flu," my pencil markings and questions. Author of the "blue," I talked with the author of the sentences I'd marked, encouraging him finally to re-vise his work with both his and my voice inside his mind. I won't know for a few days what S. has made of our conversation, but even today, as we sat in class, it was clear to me that there was a new dimension to our relationship.

    Having S. in mind as I write this made me wonder if you might write occasionally of the individual S's or M's who have helped you see the power of experience or experience-based feedback? That we might know them.