Feed them with feedback

Steven Paul Rudolph

An important aspect of learning relates to feedback. While we are in the process of learning, our brain looks for indications that what we are absorbing or performing is correct. This could be someone’s words of praise (“That’s correct. Nice work!”) or a word of caution (“Not exactly. You’re going off track.”). Feedback can also come from claps, cheers, buzzes and boos. But no matter how it comes, what’s important is that it comes and that it comes quickly.

As we learn, our brains are constantly in a process of self-correction. If we don’t receive feedback, the brain does not realize it is making a mistake and it fails to learn properly. Worse, if we are making a mistake, the brain can learn something wrongly. Then we have to ‘unlearn’, which can be very troublesome.

feedback One of the problems in today’s classrooms is that children don’t get enough feedback, and they don’t get it quickly enough. Teachers complain that class sizes are too big to give individual feedback. Therefore, they often resort to going over things with the whole class. For instance, consider a teacher who wants to review the answers to a test. She typically stands at the front of the room, and quickly reads off the answers one by one, sometimes writing a few of the answers on the board. While some students are inclined to ask questions, others are afraid to do so, as they want to avoid appearing foolish that they don’t understand.

Here’s a solution: the teacher can create cards with the answers on them. She can put the students in groups. Then the students can take an answer card one at a time, and check their answers against the cards. This gives the students time to focus on the problems. Self-checking also puts the students at the center of the feedback process rather than making them feel like a faceless mass receiving generic feedback from the teacher. Another benefit of the group-checking method is that the students who got the answer correct can give guidance to the ones who made mistakes, thus providing them with personalized feedback. In the case of subjective marking, such as essays, the teacher can provide a set of rubrics/criteria that the student can look for while checking (e.g., Is all punctuation correct? Do all sentences begin with a capital letter?)

So the next time you want to give feedback, try the self-check method. At Jiva Public School, our teachers have used this technique with all subjects and they have even tried it out successfully with pre-primary students! You find that students will take much greater interest in checking their answers and correcting their own errors. Feed them with feedback and they’ll be hungry for learning more!

The author is an American educator, TV personality, public speaker and bestselling author based in India. He can be reached at steve@jiva.com.

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