The Best Feedback is GATHERED, not GIVEN

All y’all know that I’ve been completely consumed by reimagining the role that feedback should play in the modern classroom, right?  I’ve been reading darn near everything written by experts like Dylan Wiliam, Grant Wiggins, John Hattie, Rick Stiggins, Jan Chappuis, Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey.  More importantly, I’ve been tinkering with the feedback practices in my classroom for the better part of the past four years.

If there’s any single thought that holds together the key findings of all of these folks, it’s that the best feedback is GATHERED, not GIVEN:

(click here to view and download original image on Flickr)

Slide - Gathered By Filled

Here’s why:  When we reverse the traditional roles that teachers and learners play in the classroom feedback cycle, we are helping our students to recognize that the people who are the MOST successful in our world AREN’T those who can take critique from a boss and adjust their actions/behaviors/work products accordingly.

The MOST successful people in our world are constantly critiquing THEMSELVES.  They are identifying meaningful goals worth pursuing, looking for exemplars to measure their own performances against, setting criteria for determining success, measuring their own progress, and constantly adjusting their goals, their decisions, their actions and their direction on the fly.

To borrow a related thought from Mortimer Adler, author of The Paideia Proposal:

All genuine learning is active, not passive.  It involves the use of the mind, not just the memory.  It is a process of discovery, in which the student is the main agent, not the teacher.

So ask yourself this:  How often is the feedback process that you are using with students active and not passive?  How often does it turn your students into the main agents in a process of discovery, using their minds to create meaning and find sense in their own patterns of performance?



Related Radical Reads:

New Feedback Activity:  Unit Analysis Forms

New Feedback Activity:  Not Yet/You Bet Lists

New Feedback Activity: The Best Feedback is a Work For/Work On Process

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  • Benjamin L. Stewart

    Feedback Loops

    Giving and receiving feedback, or feedback loops, is a process of giving outputs and receiving inputs between two or more individuals in a cyclical fashion.  The back-and-forth interaction between teachers, students, and anyone else involved in the learning design produces an ongoing cause-and-effect relationship that impacts a changed in behavior of those involved.  Even when students are self-assessing, they are drawing on prior inputs and their own prior outputs (that mentally convert to inputs) to make decisions about future actions or beliefs. 

    So, feedback isn't given or gathered, but grows from an iterative and mutual process of human interaction involving continuous give and take.  If a student remains passive, she is still providing inputs back to the teacher, student, or whomever, that later result in potential causes for some subsequent effect(s). If the educator, for example, is producing output based on no prior input, then this is not feedback at all.  This is why "teaching to the middle", traditional lectures, etc., are so dangerous because it assumes that all students are at the same academic level which is based on assumption and not evidence (output).  Formative assessment is all about understanding feedback loops, which is where those involved in the learning design ought to be most of the time. 

  • JustinMinkel

    What it looks like for young kids, relative to “behavior”

    Love this, Bill. For young kids, this can just take a moment. After many projects/lessons/workshops, I ask my 2nd graders to look at a rubric at the front of the room and rate themselves from 1 (“I didn’t work hard. I didn’t get smarter,”) to 4 (“I worked hard the whole time. I got a lot smarter.”)

    Even young kids need more in-depth and specific reflection, of course, but I’ve found that building in brief and simple self-reflections like this throughout the day leads to internalized focus and motivation even for 1st graders that is fundamentally different from the teacher constantly moving up or down a child’s clip to control their behavior.

    I’m dismayed sometimes by the number of external systems of punishment and reward surround young students, including my 8-year old daughter. Children are capable of setting their own goals, thinking about what they have improved upon and what they need to keep working on, and deciding what changes they want to make to a piece of writing or artwork.

    Thanks for this thought-provoking post. So many applications–it also applies, of course, to professional systems for teachers, the extent to which we’re reflecting and setting our own goals rather than being rated by administrators with clipboards.

  • leesajohnson

    Gathering Feeback is sign of happening good things

    Feedback is a mirror of our works. Before gathering the feedback a collector should remember one thing in their mind that they are human not god and the mistakes are done by the human, therefore, a feedback collector should not become pessimistic he/she always remain optimistic about their mistake.

  • jany watson

    many thanks

    help: Thank you for helping me see another perspective. We all get caught up in what we are supposed to be doing. We are pressured to get through the curriclum and although we are differentiating, formally and informally assessing students, those quite thinkers may get overlooked. I am faulted at moving too fast, not giving enough think time. I know this is something I need to work on.

  • Nikki Wise

    In order to become your best self, you need to be able to critique yourself so you know what you can change and improve. I have been reading the book “The Connected Educator” and have learned a lot about teaching techniques, especially by using online resources. While I am not a teacher, I am training new employees at work, and I always ask when I am done training someone “what could I have done differently, and what would you have liked me to cover more?” By doing so, you can continue to improve yourself and your teaching techniques. #clc-teacherleader