Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Feedback: The Hinge That Joins Teaching & Learning


After a bit of a hiatus, I am back! As my district is embracing the power of feedback and how it can make teaching and learning more powerful, my boss gave me the book, written by Jane E. Pollock, Feedback: The Hinge That Joins Teaching & Learning. I will be reflecting on each chapter here for my own personal reflection, as well as for the benefit of any wandering soul who stumbles upon my blog :)

The first chapter talks about the power of feedback and how it acts as the hinge that swings the learning process back and forth between teacher and student. As a teacher gives the student information, the door swings to the student. The student then does something with that information and the door then swings back to the teacher where they then make decisions on what to do with the student action. As I read through this chapter, I found myself thinking that "there is nothing new here" because this is what Madeline Hunter referred to as "Monitor & Adjust." The problem, however, is that too often no one adjusts anything. The teacher and student live with the grade and move on. The teacher and student must both make conscious efforts to change what they are doing in order for teaching and learning to improve. However, how often does the door swing more than twice? Usually, the door swings from the teacher to the student, then it swings back to the teacher, and that's where it stops. It needs to be a constant back-and-forth.

I also thought about my former life as a band director. This idea of feedback in the classroom is second nature to me. Have you ever been to a concert before? Remember how good it was? Chances are good that there were very few, if any, tests. In rehearsals, the group would play, the conductor would provide feedback on how to improve, and the group would make adjustments. If the conductor needed to make adjustments to make his or her directions more clear, they would do so. This is what I believe Pollock is talking about. The problem is that most classrooms exist in the paradigm of the teacher gives the information, the students take a test, and then everyone moves on. Within that paradigm, homework is a grade-justification rather than practice. Football teams practice and it is a place where you are allowed to make mistakes and fix them so that they are more successful in the game. Why don't we do this in the classroom?

The problem, as I see it, is that this is a HUGE paradigm shift. However, I think the idea of Monitoring & Adjusting is an easier pill to gulp down. The book promises simple, easy to implement ideas for teachers and students that will increase the feedback loop and transform teaching and learning.

One of the reflection questions was "...which students seem to naturally seek and receive feedback?" My answer was that the higher-achiever and more goal-oriented student does this. So the mission is to now get students goal-oriented and getting them to seek feedback on their own.

More chapters to come...

Have a happy day!