Thursday, July 3, 2008

Implementing Feedback and Guidance

Previously we (Theron DesRosier, Jayme Jacobson, and I) wrote about implementing our ideas for a transformed grade book. The next step in that discussion was to think about how to render the data. Our question was, “How do we render this data so that the learner can learn from it?”

We’ve been spending time with Grant Wiggins’ Assessing Student Performance, Jossey-Bass, 1993. In Chapter 6 on Feedback, he differentiates ‘feedback’ from ‘guidance’ in several examples and defines feedback as “information that provides the performer with direct, usable insights into current performance, based on tangible differences between current performance and hoped-for performance.”

Wiggins describes ‘guidance’ as looking forward, the roadmap to follow to my goal and ‘feedback’ as looking backward, did my last action keep me on the road or steer me off?
Wiggins points to Peter Elbow, Embracing Contraries and Explorations in Learning and Teaching, “The unspoken premise that permeates much of education is that every performance must be measured and that the most important response to a performance is to measure it.” Both authors go on to suggest that less measurement is needed, and that feedback is the important (often missing) element to substitute for measurement.

Our previous posts on the transformed grade book are designed to be a measurement strategy (that we hoped would also provide feedback to learners), but Wiggins leads me to think that learners need a feedback tool different from a measurement tool (used to populate the grade book).

While bloggers have some experience getting feedback from the blogosphere by informal means, I think that it would be useful to scaffold requesting feedback, for both learners and feedback givers. However, I want the process to be simple and fast for both parties. What I hope to avoid is the too common tendency of student peers to give trite “great job” reviews, or to fall into reviewing mechanical things, such as looking for spelling errors.

To that end, I am exploring a simplified approach from the idea in the last post. Recently, I tried a version of this simple idea in an email to Gary Brown (our director). He had asked me for a report on LMS costs to be shared with a campus committee. I replied with the report and this:

Feedback request: Is this going to meet your needs for the LMS committee? (Yes/somewhat/no)

Guidance request: what additional issues would you like considered?

Implicit in the feedback request was my goal of meeting his needs.

Even with this simple feedback + guidance request the question remains, can we render the data that would be collected in a way the learner could learn from it? Below is a hypothetical graph of multiple events (draft and final documents) where I asked Gary for feedback: “Is this useful?” The series makes evident to me (the learner) that initially the feedback I’m getting is not very affirming, and final versions don’t fair much better than drafts. Reflecting on this I have a heart-to-heart talk and afterwards develop a new strategy that improves my feedback results.

Versions of this kind of “Was this helpful?” feedback appear on some online help resources, and I assume that someone is reviewing the feedback and updating the help pages, and could produce graphs similar to the one above, showing improved feedback after specific interventions.

Here is Google's feedback request from a help page found from a Google App:
When you choose the Yes or No feedback, another question appears, and in this case you are giving guidance on what would make the item better, either picking a guidance from a list or providing an open-ended reply.

In addition to comments or trackbacks, please give me feedback and guidance on this post (my form is not as slick as Google's).

1 comment:

Ashley Ater Kranov said...

Nils, what you've drafted here as a lot of potential for multiple audiences - we've been talking about this for a few months - Let's try this out over the next few months as a pilot. Did Gary respond using the tool that you provided? Was the response useful to use as a learner committed to continual improvement?