“We open our mouths and our parents or our previous teachers come out. Changing our talk requires gaining a sense of what we are doing, our options, their consequences, and why we make the choices we make.” (pp. 6-7)
MIB, Bring on the Neauralyzer!
Feedforward Here We Come!
We feel like we are thoughtful and constructive with our feedback to students. We choose our words in a way that we believe nurtures kids to grow, but thinking about how our comments influence children’s mindsets, how children see and approach the world, makes us want to stop and think about our practices. Is the feedback we give students based on phrases we heard our own teachers and parents say to us—with a little updated, “we’re living in 2012” lingo?
This quote from Opening Minds, referring to the differing impact of process-oriented feedback over person-oriented feedback, catches our attention and reiterates our responsibility to craft our language in purposeful ways :
“What I find striking about these studies is that only a few instances
of a particular form of feedback produce quite strong effects. We have
to imagine the consequences of these patterns magnified over the days,
weeks, months, and years children spend in school. We also have to
consider the extent of the effects. The effects are on children’s thinking,
their emotions, their resilience when they are unsuccessful, and their
relationships with others.” (p.40)
After some reflection, we’ve decided to send the MIB back to their job of protecting us from alien invaders and instead create a “cheat sheet” to move us toward internalizing language that truly moves learning forward as suggested by Johnston. What will be on our cheat sheet? The dense information within chapters 3-6 (and the whole book) helps establish criteria to evaluate our feedback and work toward “feedforward.”
“The purpose of feedback is to improve conceptual understanding
or increase strategic options while developing stamina, resilience, and
motivation—expanding the vision of what is possible and how to get
there. Perhaps we should call it feedforward rather than feedback.” (p.48)
Criteria for feedforward (based on our synthesis):
- Nurtures symmetrical relationships
- Fosters Intrinsic Motivation
- Establishes a dynamic-learning frame
Are we using a causal structure in our “feedforward?”
Causal “feedforward” is particularly powerful in creating agency in students. We can’t help but notice how it takes attention away from extrinsic motivation, too. Here are two sentence stems we may add to our cheat sheet:
You did ___________, so _______________
Thank you for _______________. It helped ______________________.
Here’s a great example from Johnston: “You read your piece to the class with such expression that I couldn’t help but become interested in wolves.” (p.47)
Are we using language that builds symmetrical relationships?
We believe in the power of learners helping learners. The work of Maria Nichols helped us think about how we position ourselves in discussions. And then we rethought how we position ourselves in inquiry discussions after working with Steph Harvey. Johnston’s analysis of a dialogic conversation in Cheryl McMann’s classroom highlighted two strategies we will remind ourselves of to help build symmetrical relationships in our classrooms. First, we will focus on consistently asking open-ended questions (i.e. “What does everyone think about this idea?” p. 55) to allow for dialogic talk and to honor ideas from all voices. Secondly, we will aim to respond in nonjudgmental ways. Step one, we will throw out your “good job's” and "uh-ha's" and replace them with “thank you.” And since we hope to be establishing the causal relationship, we strive to stay, “Thank you for________. You helped us ___________” or “Thank you. You noticed _____________, so we _______________.”
Are we nurturing intrinsic or extrinsic motivation with our comments?
“I like the way Jenna lined up with her hands by her side,” may appeal to all of the people-pleasers in our classrooms, but it sends an underling message that we have our hands at our sides to please the teacher. What about the need to have our hands at our side to respect our neighbors’ space, to help us focus on directions, or even notice when the line has begun to move? This sounds like such a petty example, but the secondary messages sent in “I like the way…” may counteract the independent environment we are so hoping to foster. September is full of shaping behavior. This September, we hope to shape behavior by building intrinsic motivation to conduct oneself in a learning-friendly way, that builds symmetrical relationships (How are we doing at showing other classrooms full of students respect while moving through the hallway?) and causal in nature (Thank you for putting your name on the paper, so I can be sure to share my comments with you , the author).
Are we giving process-oriented feedforward?
Johnston shares the importance of offering “feedforward” on the experience, not the person. “You are a good drawer vs. you did a good job drawing” (p.39) convey two distinct underlying messages. In a research study, the latter led to a rise in children’s (intrinsic) interest for drawing and drive to fix errors (dynamic learning).
Are you beginning to see the huge interrelationship between the criteria of “feedforward” like we are?
Are we establishing a dynamic-learning frame?
As we think about this, we hypothesize that if the feedforward meets the first four criteria, it will pass the test of establishing a dynamic mindset, too. However, we do not believe the converse is true. In other words, feedfoward does not need to encompass all of the other four criteria to foster a dynamic mindset. Thanks to several #cyberPD bloggers for reminding us that one word, one word can convey a dynamic mindset.
We’re in the process of making our cheat sheet. What will your cheat sheet look like?
Thanks to Katie @Catching Readers Before They Fall for sharing in her July 16th post that Johnston noted cheat sheets may be useful in the quest toward internalizing language. Any negative connotations of “cheat sheet” that existed in our fixed mindsets were wiped out with Johnston’s causal explanation that a cheat sheet may nurture internalization of language.