Feedback : “Feedforward”
Are you getting and giving feedback that is leading to increased growth for your students, their families, yourself? It all begins with listening. “A feedback system is one that compares its output to a desired input and takes corrective action to force the output to follow the input.” (ScienceDirect.com)
Are you listening – to your students, to their families, to yourself, and your own family? At a time when we are all physically distanced from school, it is all the more important that we use what we know from the clear, comprehensive research of John Hattie. Feedback matters. Students being able to speak to their own goals, and their progress toward them, matters. Will all of this look different than it looked two months ago? Absolutely. Yet it is just as critically important, if not more so, now. At a time where there is no “physical accountability,” i.e. compulsory attendance – it is essential that we provide students and their families positive and constructive feedback to guide their engagement, learning, and academic behavior, so they keep coming back as active participants in their education to the greatest extent possible, and hence, keep growing in the right direction.
Yes, it all begins with listening – listening to our students – their needs, their hopes, and their dreams to just be able to see their friends again; to their families – their basic needs, their feelings of pride or complete frustration and inadequacy with this whole ‘learning at home’ reality they have been thrust into with no warning; to ourselves and our own families – our basic needs, our emotional needs, our physical needs. Listening is step one because feedback is only as valuable as, one, someone’s openness to hearing it, and two, that it is focused on their own goals and their willingness to work towards them with you.
Teachers’ and Administrators’ Needs
Teachers and administrators must take care of themselves before they can effectively and efficiently take care of others. Your family is very important in this because their care is also where your responsibility lies, and they are most often the ones, in their behavior towards you, to give feedback on your own wellness. Just like we do with our students, we must begin by assessing where we are, so we can identify any gaps and thereby figure out where to start. It all begins with listening – are you listening to your body, your mind, your spirit, your family? To do a self care check, read this brief article on Authentic Self Care, and then consider completing this research based Self Care Assessment, which will help you focus on the multidimensional you – your physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, relationship and professional “wellness.” The Star Commonwealth site also offers additional resources for your work with your students and some of their unique needs during this time. If work seems to be heavier on your mind these days, consider also checking out this Professional Quality of Life Measure.
Once we have assessed our own self care, it is time to make sure that we purposefully plan to address our own needs within these various areas to help us establish that sense of balance and wellness where we move from surviving to thriving. In this article, Self-Care for Teachers (Nelsen & Gfroerer, 2017) on the Positive Discipline website, Dr. Jane Nelsen and Dr. Kelly Gfroerer provide clear, concise steps for teachers and administrators regarding goal setting and progress monitoring of your own self-care. As you plan your goals, if you’re having any trouble thinking of purposeful self-care activities, check out the Self Care Wheel, created by Olga Phoenix, trauma prevention specialist. As you begin to attend more to meeting your own needs, you will find decreased stress and anxiety and may actually begin to be able to spend some time thinking about proactive practices to protect your time and commitment to your self-care in the future. For a bit more on that, check out 5 Tips for Teachers to Take Back Your Holiday Breaks (Dobbs, M., 2016).
We assessed our own self-care. We intentionally planned a few purposeful goals. Next, we must set up a system to monitor our progress toward these goals. Accountability is key. How often do we set goals with the best of intentions but not follow through. Developing a system for progress monitoring–i.e. real time feedback, and even selecting an accountability partner, similar to what teachers are to students and vice versa–is the key to successfully attaining our goals! Write it down. How will you document your progress; with whom will you share it; how will you celebrate your growing in the right direction?
Our Students’ Needs
Remember how we began, “A feedback system is one that compares its output to a desired input and takes corrective action to force the output to follow the input.” As we consider the “output” we desire from our students, we must begin again with an assessment of their needs. Let’s begin again with listening. What are they talking about? Are they anxious or afraid? Are they at ease and ready to learn? Consider Maslow as well as Bloom. Are our students’ basic physical, safety, and emotional security needs being met so they can enthusiastically engage in academic skills. If these first three needs are not being met, then do the best you can to provide some of the emotional connection and stability that positive relationships with teachers provide for some of our most vulnerable learners. If students are ready for academic tasks, and even the challenge of new learning, then let’s carefully assess where they are successful academically and where they will need support. There will be nothing more important at this fragile time than ensuring our students are building upon success. Hence, we must plan practice activities and new learning where they are most likely to find success. Quick screener exercises may be used to fulfill that purpose.
As you provide learning experiences for your students, it will be critical that they receive appropriate skill level and workload exercises, with frequent feedback, to keep them engaged and coming back. Practice opportunities on skills they need reinforced, and will find success with, are excellent for this. When new instruction is offered, it is important that students’ differentiated needs for scaffolding and accommodations are carefully planned. Online instruction can be challenging, but providing frequent feedback can keep students enthusiastic and engaged. Consider what feedback can be given to the whole group, small group or needs to be provided individually. Survey students often to see what is, and is not, working for them in this new learning environment. Consider the following opportunities for providing multiple opportunities for feedback offered in these High Leverage Practices. (HLP 8 & 22).
- Provide pre-work activities or study guides to generate thinking and encourage self-regulation feedback
- Make use of a variety of platform features during virtual learning to check for understanding: raise hand, breakout rooms, polls, incorporating games, use of the whiteboard, responding with emoji reactions
- Use the chatbox for participants to ask and answer each others’ questions
- For large groups, assign students roles, so they begin to learn how to facilitate discussions
Shifting away from traditional grading to growing at this time, have students use rubrics and create goal setting/progress monitoring sheets, so they can record their own progress toward collaboratively set goals. For more information on Hattie’s Visible Assessing and how students can begin to self-assess their collaboratively designed goals, check out this resource from the William and Mary School Leadership Institute.
Our Families’ Needs
Family needs at this time will vary greatly. This is one of the places inequities will be the most obvious. Frequently assessing your students’ families needs and their readiness and preferences for distance learning is critical to your being able to engage your students in meaningful academic learning. Simple surveys, written, electronic, or even conducted through a brief phone call, will help you assess how families are doing: their basic needs, their communication needs and preferences, and their time needs and preferences. Consider time, format (verbal via phone, messenger, zoom, etc.; written via email, texting or other means), and frequency as you consider communication and feedback preferences.
After you have assessed your students’ families’ needs, consider how you can help them develop a “stair step approach” to this new learning at home opportunity. Given we have no other choice at this time, have the adult design in their mind, the “ideal” learning at home situation. Have them jot down a few words about what that would “look like and sound like.” Next, reassure them that what they have just written down is not likely to happen next week, or perhaps not for the next few weeks. Finally, have them think about the steps it would take to get to that idea. Remind them that each step they take toward that ideal is growing towards our goal because that means they are moving in the right direction.
Have them jot these down, one under another, as if creating a checklist. Celebrate with them that they have just done what we ask their students to do – consider the goal and celebrate each step towards it. Encourage them to put down some target dates and check off one step at a time. Remind them about the importance of celebrating the accomplishment of mastering each step. Consider how the family as a team can celebrate these accomplishments of building a learning environment at home, perhaps with a fun game, walk outside together, or funny movie.
Check out these exceptional resources for families: Supporting Learning During the COVID-19 Pandemic , COVID-19: A PARENT GUIDE FOR SCHOOL-AGED CHILDREN, Four Tips for Your Families Trying PBIS at Home and Parents Guide to Problem Behavior. These resources may be overwhelming for some families, so consider how you might be able to chunk the content to adapt to where families are on their journey to their ideal learning at home environment.
It has been said, “if you’re too busy to create good systems, you’ll always be too busy.” (Brian Logue) Pause for a few moments now to design a feedback system that works for you. Remember, “A feedback system is one that compares its output to a desired input and takes corrective action to force the output to follow the input.” Write down, what will you be intentionally “putting in,” so you, your students, and their families will have the desired outcomes, hence will move one step closer from surviving to thriving. Remember it begins with listening and then feeding forward. “Feed-forward control predicts the error and reacts so as to prevent it before it occurs. It requires knowledge of the process, so that the reaction of the controlled variables to corrective actions may be calculated or estimated. It is, therefore, easier to apply to simple processes.” (ScienceDirect.com) How will you listen to what your body, your family, your students, and your students’ families are telling you to inform your feedback system?
(n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2020, from http://rubistar.4teachers.org/index.php
4 Tips for Your Families Trying PBIS at Home. (n.d.). Retrieved April 26, 2020, from https://www.pbisapps.org/community/Pages/4-Tips-for-Families-Trying-PBIS-at-Home.aspx
Dobbs, M. (2016, December 3). 5 Tips for TEACHERS to TAKE BACK Holiday Breaks! Retrieved April 25, 2020, from https://www.bespokeclassroom.com/blog/2016/12/2/5-tips-for-teachers-to-take-back-your-holiday-breaks
Explore scientific, technical, and medical research on ScienceDirect. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/
Feedforward Control. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2020, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/feedforward-control
Gonzalez, J. (2018, September 20). Moving from Feedback to Feedforward. Retrieved April 25, 2020, from https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/feedforward/
Haas, S. (2014). Feedback: The Communication of Praise, Criticism, and Advice Robbie M. Sutton, Matthew J. Hornsey and Karen M. Douglas (eds.) (2012) New York: Peter Lang International Academic Publishers. Pp. 359 ISBN: 9781433105111. Writing & Pedagogy, 6(2), 431–435. doi: 10.1558/wap.v6i2.431
Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: maximizing impact on learning. New York: Routledge.
Council for Exceptional Children. (2017). High-leverage practices in special education: foundations for student success. Arlington, VA.
Kruse, K. (2012, August 1). Stop Giving Feedback, Instead Give Feedforward. Retrieved April 25, 2020, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2012/07/19/feedforward-coaching-for-performance/#6e3f102e235d
Marzano, R. J. (2000). Transforming classroom grading. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Nelson, J. F., & Gfroerer, K. (2017, October 30). Self Care for Teachers. Retrieved April 25, 2020, from https://www.positivediscipline.com/articles/self-care-teachers
Olga Phoenix. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2020, from http://www.olgaphoenix.com/
Parents Guide to Problem Behavior. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2020, from https://childmind.org/guide/parents-guide-to-problem-behavior/
Parents: Supporting Learning During the COVID-19 Pandemic. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2020, from https://iris.peabody.vanderbilt.edu/module/c19/
ProQOL Measure. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2020, from https://proqol.org/ProQol_Test.html
Reed, E., & Reed, E. (2020, April 23). Authentic Self-Care. Retrieved April 25, 2020, from https://starr.org/authentic-self-care/?utm_source=hubspot&utm_medium=email&utm_content=button&utm_campaign=aprilweek4&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-_Zk5ioafEZhg6I0Js07RcVr-XR6YqntVV3ifbnmFdZkGl9LzcrktNGQ86f-2rRfe6S4HmVZtE-MbxlxSBZsxQbAH-gZw&_hsmi=86879092
School of EducationSchool Leadership Institute. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2020, from https://education.wm.edu/centers/sli/DLST/links/VTALL/index.php
Virginia Department of Education. (n.d.). COVID-19: A Parent Guide for School-Aged Children. Retrieved April 25, 2020, from http://www.doe.virginia.gov/support/health_medical/office/covid-19-parent-guide.shtml