I have preached for years on the value of feedback as I have worked with teachers to deepen their practice on authentic learning experiences, project-based learning, inquiry learning, design thinking, and other similar pedagogical approaches. However, it wasn’t until just recently that I experienced the value of true feedback. You see, I recently became a student – again – in two very different contexts. A year ago, I decided to take the plunge and take horseback riding lessons. I also decided to delve into a doctoral program. Both experiences have helped me to grow as a learner and as an educator. These experiences have been vastly different in the ways in which I have received feedback and they can serve as examples as to how we can, as educators, improve on how we personally provide feedback to our learners.
My oldest daughter has been taking riding lessons for nearly seven years. She has experienced her share of instructors along the way and two years ago we were fortunate enough to find Aubrey. Six months later, my youngest daughter started her lessons. Not long after, I gave in to my long suppressed desire to learn how to properly ride and I, too, began my journey to better equitation. I must say, I have come a long way. I transitioned from western to English and have even started working on a few baby jumps. At the end of some of my lessons I feel very accomplished and at the end of others, I feel like the horse and I weren’t communicating at all. (Or, rather, my communication with the horse was completely off!) Just a few weeks ago, I had one of those moments when nothing felt right. Aubrey assured me all riders have those days. A week later, I literally got back up on the horse and tried to work past it. Aubrey walked patiently around the ring, giving me cues and visually showing me what I needed to do differently. I felt much better at the end of the lesson, but I still wasn’t certain if I had it all figured out.
Fast forward to later that evening and I received a text from Aubrey with two pictures of me riding. Both pictures came with specific descriptions on what to look for in each picture. One picture showed me in incorrect form and one picture showed me in a much better rider position (albeit, not a perfect one). The detail in the descriptions and the visuals provided helped me immensely! The extra time and effort that Aubrey took in providing her feedback to me have been an incredible help. While I can’t say that I have nearly reached the level of equitation that I would like, I know that I have traveled miles in my journey.
The past several months as a doctoral student have been challenging on several levels. Even though the degree is offered from an actual brick and mortar university, it is a completely online program. This, perhaps, compounds the issues of communication. The feedback or lack thereof has been the most profound challenge I’ve experienced. A few weeks ago, I submitted my initial draft of my research proposal. I received a grade of a 95 with the comment, “I am sure you will make adjustments in the future.” Well, okay. I already knew that. But, what I still don’t know is whether or not the type of study I have proposed uses the appropriate methodology. I have no idea if the study seems to be feasible as it is currently written. I certainly have no clue if I have left off any portions that the Institutional Review Board would question. In response, you might be thinking, “Well, Dayna, this is a doctoral level program. You should already know how to do this.” The problem is, I don’t. I’ve read countless studies and nearly 400 pages of an educational research textbook, but I have never carried out my own study before. I really feel like I am flying solo and somewhat blindly. Similar to my research study plight, in a different class with a different professor, a peer of mine simply received the comment to read a specific set of pages in the text. Well, that may be a useful instruction for the start of the project, but as far as feedback goes, it doesn’t even qualify.
As you provide feedback to your learners, today, ask yourself the following questions:
Do you create a visual through words or pictures that truly help your learners to see their shortcomings?
Does your feedback actually elicit the change you desire to see in your learners?
Have you helped your learners grow through the feedback that you have provided?
I would love to hear the success stories that you have of either providing or receiving feedback! Tweet me a comment @daylynn or leave a comment below.
Oh, and if you are looking for ideas on how to leave valuable feedback, check out my new book that was just released this week, Developing Natural Curiosity through PBL: 5 Strategies for the PreK-3 Classroom. My good friend and colleague, Jill Ackers, and I co-wrote this and continually provided feedback to one another as we composed it!