I think the title presents a clear question. I’ve been reading a lot of student writing and drafting lately and providing feedback. Feedback is one of the elements on our evaluation rubric. We expect feedback from our school leaders regarding our teaching performance. Feedback is one of those terms we throw around so much that I’m not so sure we are all using the same definition.
One of my favorite places to turn for educational readings is Grant Wiggins’ blog, and one of my favorite posts of his regards feedback: https://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2014/04/15/what-feedback-is-and-isnt/
in this article he begins by asking which of these 4 examples is actual feedback:
- “Nice job on the project, Sheshona!”
2. “Next time, Sam, you’ll want to make your thesis clearer to the reader”
3. “The lesson would be more effective, Shana, if your visuals were more polished and supportive of the teaching.”
4. “You taught about ants, Stefan? I LOVE ants!”
And then promptly points out that none of the 4 is feedback. This has always stood out to me because I think we often believe we are providing feedback when in reality we are not. Feedback should indicate to a student where he stands in relation to a goal. While praise and advice are both worthwhile things in their own right, neither of them is true feedback. I worry that we are so hung up on providing feedback that we don’t actually focus on whether or not we are providing good feedback. I would bet in most schools, leaders would view advice as feedback, so teachers provide lots of advice.
The moments that always stand out to me regarding feedback are from my public speaking classes. In Public Speaking students are required to deliver a sales pitch. shortly thereafter, I always ask the class who was actually convinced to purchase a product based on the sales pitch. That is the clearest feedback these students can get regarding the effectiveness of their speech. If the intended goal is to sell something and people are buying it or not buying, you have all sorts of useful information to determine how well you did. This is much stronger feedback than anything I could write or say about the speech after the fact.
Feedback is, perhaps surprisingly, a tricky piece of the educational lexicon. Perhaps it is worth analyzing our own feedback to determine if we are giving good feedback or not.