Fall: process and feedback - my mantra of the moment

Well, once again I got lured into so many good discussions here throughout Fireside that I didn't post in my blog this weekend - but it was a weekend with a LOT of thought going on, since I ran into a real problem in my class last week, with far more students than usual having a kind of crisis when they went to write the Introduction for their projects, being unable somehow to do the basic background research and report on what they found.

So, I got some good ideas from folks here at Fireside, read a very useful book chapter that David had put up in one of the discussions, and talked with my husband about this at length. I felt really stumped until finally this morning I figured otu a possible solution in the shower (where for some reason I am able to disentangle all kinds of complicated problems!) - basically, I need to stick to my mantra of "process and feedback" which is a kind of guiding philosophy in all my teaching and find a way to elaborate the process and make sure my students get more/better feedback.

So, without going into the nitty gritty details, I am going to add a "pre-drafting" element to the Week 3 assignment (which is currently a creative brainstorming assignment only), so that the students will have gotten some more specific research feedback before they get to the Week 4 assignment. I have to give them a way to get help - and I have to trust that if I give them this chance to ask for help, they will take me up on it. I wish they would just send me an email to ask for help but... since that is just not the case... I'll build it into the process for class, so that EVERYBODY will get feedback: affirmative feedback for the people who are moving fullspeed ahead, and some remedial feedback for some people who are just in big trouble when it comes to doing basic research.

In some ideal world, these students - who have had over 15 years of formal schooling! - would have developed more of their own feedback mechanisms... but sad to say, they have not. Reading the final chapter from the book that David shared about knowledge frameworks and "teaching thinking" was very helpful: Framworks for Thinking. Here's a little chart - simple, as all good charts should be - which summarizes the authors' conclusions about the thinking process, and which was very helpful to me (click on the image for a larger view). My students often have serious deficits in all three of the core areas, which means they are more than ever in need of the "super" function, the management tasks of reflecting and strategizing. That is the role I think I play for them as a coach - and I just need to keep finding ways to contribute to their work by playing that role for them, EXPLICITLY modeling that for them, too, so that hopefully they will learn to do that task for themselves... eventually.

Anyway, I am feeling much better now because I have found what looks like a good improvement for class next semester and - as with all process/feedback enhancements - it will benefit all my students, in addition to the ones whose serious needs prompted me to come up with this new enhancement. :-)

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Comment by Laura Gibbs on October 1, 2008 at 8:53am
Hi Ed, the process/feedback thing is so simple that it is easy to forget about it - it's almost like taking personal responsibility for the Law of Gravity or something like that, having to remember to make things fall down, ha ha. But reading through the chapter of that book on theories of knowledge, I am going to try to be better about just repeating to myself "process/feedback" whenever I run into one of these organizational problems in class to see if maybe I can find the solution this way! I felt so STUCK last week but now that I have this little solution, it's going to be easy to implement and, in the long run, LESS work for me and for the students, because it is ultimately very efficient. IF it works. I'll find out next semester. :-)
Comment by Ed Jones on October 1, 2008 at 7:57am
Laura, if their summer is like mine, its not surprising. I can't recall a summer since high school where I was less productive. Of course, your students might not have the same conditions, but here it was one beautiful mild day after another. In Ohio, you learn to take these when they come--odds are day after next will either be solid rain, unrelenting heat and humidity, or even cold in August some years. Yet this year brought day after day of mild, sunny, got to get out weather! I missed a whole month or more of hiding inside from the heat!

That said, I love your process and feedback loop. Would that more so-called activists took this approach to the processes of self-government!!

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