Feedback, (and feed up and feed forward) is currently seen as “A GOOD THING” in education. Indeed Prof. John Hattie gives feedback an effect size of a formidable d=0.73 (Hattie in Visible Learning p173).
Being seen as “A Good Thing” is always a dangerous time for an educational idea, because - gaining sacred cow status – and therefore becoming exempt from criticism or questioning - allows all sorts of misrepresentations to flourish (Fischer and Scriven 1997).
I am as guilty as any in adding to the flourish about feedback - I am a feedback flourisher. I think it worthy of close attention when doing school … and to understand it better … I write about (and talk at length about) how to improve the effectiveness of feedback conversations with students. This usually references the use of SOLO Taxonomy to clarify “feed up” (where am I going?), feedback (how is it going) and “feed forward” (what should I do next?) at the content level, process level, self-regulatory level and the self-level.
However, it took a chance comment from T (who is editing some of my day job writing at Essential Resources ) to make me realise that I have not done anything like enough work on the misrepresentation of feedback.
Not only have I have never worried about where the terms came from or when we first started talking in this somewhat mechanistic way in teaching and learning – I have never thought to imagine any other directional systems for improving achievement outcomes through “feeding”.
So blinded was I by the GOOD THING status of feedback that I never asked –
If feed up (where am going?), feedback (how am I going?) and feedforward (where to next?) are powerfully influential in raising achievement outcomes then;
- What might “feed to the left” and “feed to the right” offer students?
- Can “feed in front of” and “feed behind” influence the quality of student achievement outcomes?
- How should we understand the influence of “feed north”, “feed south”, “feed west”, and “feed east” on student learning?
- What is the influence of the liminal zones on student achievement outcomes – all that “feed seaward”, “feed landward”, “feed upcoast”, “feed downcoast”, “feed upstream” and “feed downstream”?
- What is the pedagogical content knowledge teachers require when using “feed down” in schools?
- Or even,
- What distinguishes “feed up” from “wazzup” and “sup”?
I would like to start by imagining how to implement “feed to the left” and “feed to the right” in schools.
If feedback is, a consequence of learner performance then “feed to the left” and “feed to the right” must surely represent a pedagogical approach that helps students who struggle to locate a desired learning goal.
These new feeding orientations/directions - “feed to the left” and “feed to the right” – used when searching for that elusive – yet explicit proximate and hierarchical feed up (on the desired learning goal) - will require the student to explore their inner chameleon.
Step 1: Escape: The “student as chameleon” must reject the notion that to learn we must perch on furniture in an enclosed space, and should make all effort to escape the confines of the branch and the enclosure of the classroom.
Step 2: Changing colour: Next the “student as chameleon” should change colour to match the hue of any prominent institutional surfaces in the vicinity. Those initially challenged by the “becoming the colour of the paint on the walls” task may use food colouring or body paint.
Step 3: The walk: After mastering colour changing, the “student as chameleon” should adopt a slow moving swaying gait whilst at the same time keeping a tight control over the prehensile tail. This is a little like the pat your head and rub your tummy challenge – and may take some practice in front of the cat before attempting this in a school corridor. Students can view an instructional video here.
Step 4: “Googly eyeing” stuff: Once the gait and tail co-ordination thing is sorted, the “chameleon student” should start roaming the institution’s corridors, swivelling each stereoscopic eye separately.
Cookie Monster and Marty Feldman Episode 518 re-runs will clarify what is required at this step.
By focussing the eye swivelling - separately and simultaneously - on the left and the right - the “learner as chameleon” will achieve what most of us can only aspire to - a full 360-degree view of the landscape of learning. This step is key to enhancing those achievement outcomes.
Step 5: Binocular fixation: When a desired learning goal is spotted, the “student as chameleon” should focus both googly eyes in the same direction and attempt to capture it using their tongue.
If learning as a chameleon proves too exacting, the student can always fall back on “feed in front of” and “feed behind” strategies of the cane toad. Whilst not carrying the same effect size as “feed to the left” and “feed to the right” - “feed in front of” and “feed behind” can still evoke improved achievement outcomes with greater than d=0.4 effect sizes.
The tricky bit with “feed in front of” and “feed behind” is always in the learner’s ability to distinguish the desired learning outcome from a ping-pong ball.