The Importance of Feedback in the Learning Process

As a learning skills specialist, I am acutely aware of the importance of continual feedback in the learning process. In Learn Better, Ulrich Boser writes:

The best feedback mixes an observation with a structured way to produce the proper outcome.

Never did this idea become more obvious than when I was watching my 5-year-old son’s swimming lesson the other day. My son is in the process of learning the front crawl. During the lesson, his instructor would have him do a lap of the pool. Then she would point out something that could be done to improve my son’s technique. She used a variety of methods—demonstration, analogy, or hands-on—to show a specific aspect of the skill.

My son would listen attentively and sure enough, when he did his next lap of the pool, his technique improved. Once again, the instructor would provide feedback and guidance, focusing on a single technical component of the stroke. And on it went: lap, feedback, lap, feedback. I observed a marked difference in my son’s mechanics as the lesson progressed.

Whether it’s learning a new skill such as swimming when you’re five, driving a car when you’re a teenager, or conversing more diplomatically when you’re an adult, the value of feedback should not be overlooked. It is essential for mastering any skill.

Post-Anniversary Advice Between Partners

Last week I wrote about the improvised wedding anniversary card I gave to my wife in a post titled What Not To Do On Your Wedding Anniversary.

Shortly after, she emails me a link to a CBC article about the health benefits of abstaining from alcohol. Is she trying to tell me something?

Anyway, in response, I decide to send my red-meat-averse wife a link to an article about the health benefits of eating beef.

I love you, B. Steak tonight?

What Not To Do On Your Wedding Anniversary

Marriage can be hard work.

After years of it, I’m still learning.

I learned a long time ago that for my wife, lavish gifts on special occasions are not as important as sentimental cards.

So this year for our wedding anniversary, I made sure to get a card. But the store I went to didn’t have the greatest selection. I did, however, find a good anniversary card that said, “To my husband…” I purchased the card and with a little creativity, I was able to make it work. In places where the word “husband” appeared, I taped small pieces of paper and wrote “wife.” Below is a picture of my masterpiece.

Unfortunately, my wife wasn’t impressed.

Another lesson learned.

Anniversary Card
Anniversary card to my wife.
Photo by B. Fleming

Going Out On A Limb

One afternoon, my daughter and her friend decided to climb a large maple tree in our front yard. The first large branch is only a few feet off the ground and easy to get to for a kid who’s climbed a couple trees before. The problem, however, was that my daughter had no experience climbing trees. She couldn’t get up on that first branch that’s only a few feet off the ground. She tried a few times with no success. Her initial frustration quickly escalated to catastrophic heights.

As she stormed away from the maple and into the house, she screamed, “I suck at climbing trees! I’ll never be able to climb a tree in my life! I’m a loser!” Then the tears came.

I waited a moment before I followed her into the house.

I found her face down on the couch. I rubbed her back and said, “Listen. Climbing a tree is hard. It takes lots of practice. If climbing a tree is something you want to be able to do, we can work on it. You can’t do it yet. Remember, you couldn’t ride your bike at first, but now you’re really good. You are good at lots of things. You are definitely not a loser.”

Over the next few days, I found my daughter under the maple tree trying different ways to pull herself up onto that first branch. And the look on her face when she finally did was priceless.

 

 

Requiem For/From A Friend

Thank you for guiding me. You made a difference in my life. And I will miss you.

You said a quiet mind is not a precursor to peace. Your mind keeps going, but you can recognize that you don’t have to get involved with it. Don’t involve yourself. We constantly try to resist everything. This is the mind, you said. Don’t be involved with this resistance, and you will be at peace. Soften...Experience… Create a distance between you and your thoughts. Don’t engage. The mind comes up with many things. Don’t fight your mind. When you don’t engage, the troubling thought is gone. It’s kinda like bubbly bubbly Eno. Don’t identify with your thoughts, your personality. You’ll ask, who is this? But this is not conceptual, you said. This is a feeling, a sense. You will discover a power within yourself so nothing empowers you. With this new power, this new awareness, your general way of being will be at peace.

Thank you for guiding me. You made a difference in my life. And I will miss you.

A Dent In My Boat, But She Keeps Me Afloat

Peace at 7:00 a.m. in a kayak on a summer morning. Just me, my daughter, and nature.

My serenity, however, is broken when I arrive home, for when I unload my kayak, I notice a couple small dents on the hull. I’m angry. How could I have let this happen?

“Man, I can’t believe it! Look at these dents.”

My seven-year-old daughter responds in a calm voice. “Daddy, it’s fine. I have a dent in my water bottle and it still works just fine.”

There is wisdom behind her words. Don’t let the imperfections, the nicks, the scratches, the dents, the depressions—whatever you call them—consume you. Things still work just fine.

Trust: The Gateway to Student Development

I have come to discover that every student has the ability to grow and improve as a learner. By developing a relationship of trust, an environment is created such that students can express their challenges and what they’d like to improve on.

Real growth and development comes from an intrinsic desire to better oneself. A helper can only guide students when that fire is kindled with a supportive, non-judgmental relationship.

Can Gaming Make a Better World?

As part of a Gameful Learning course I’m taking through the University of Michigan, I watched Jane McGonigal’s TED talk on how gaming can create a better world.

McGonigal argues that gamers are a great human resource. They have a quality of urgent optimism and a strong belief that they can solve virtual worlds. It follows that to solve real world problems, we have to make the real world more like a game. McGonigal believes that transformation occurs when you immerse people in an epic adventure.

It’s a fascinating idea. So what are we waiting for? Let’s immerse ourselves and let the epic adventure begin.

Beware the Smelly-Cheese Beard

Humans are very good at recognizing the emotion of disgust in a person’s facial expressions.

The other night I saw it in four faces: my wife’s, my daughter’s, my son’s, and my own.

There was a nasty smell in the house. Foul. Disgusting. Gross. Rank. It was bad.

I suffered the stench for two hours. It seemed like it was so close, yet for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out where the putrid smell was coming from.

Finally, it dawned on me. The fetid, rancid, putrid smell was right under my nose. The revolting odour was emanating from my own beard.

Imagine the shame I felt and still feel today. Even Brené cannot help me.

It could have been the corn on the cob or the garlic chicken or the Coors Light or the Staphylococcus hominis. It could have been a combination of them all. But whatever it was, I’m telling you the smelly-cheese beard exists. And if you succumb to it, like Mr. Twit and I have, your wife and kids will never let you live it down.