Where Do We Need To Be Going? A Reflection of Maker Education and Feedback

Technology can be a powerful thing in the classroom… if it is used effectively. I work with a lot of teachers who are resistant to adding more technology to their classrooms. Why? They aren’t fluent in new technologies, and they don’t see the added value that it could bring to their classrooms. I think a lot of it has to do with not understanding the capabilities new technologies and the internet offer. Often, they simply see new technologies as a different way to do the same things they are already doing, so why mess with it? Next year, I’ll have to show them Richard Culatta’s TED Talk on Reimagining Learning.

Culatta speaks to a lot of significant points in his talk: personalized learning, collaborative problem solving, and immediate feedback to name a few. He challenges the status quo, offering an amusing analogy of health care to teaching. What if doctors treated patients the way we treat students; every patient receiving the same treatment regardless of their illness? You can quickly see how ridiculous the idea is. Instead, Culatta muses about the new possibilities (that are already being utilized in some schools) technology can bring to the classroom in what he refers to as a “Learning Positioning System” (2013). We can use technology to track and collect data on each individual students, and based on that data we can offer immediate feedback that will help get them to their destination (Culatta, 2013). A lot of times people have the impression that technology needs to be complicated, but this just seems like common sense; meet the students where they are in their learning, and guide them to the learning goal. Just as a GPS tells you where you are and guides you to your physical destination.

This idea of immediate feedback interests me, and I wanted to learn more about the impact it can have on student learning. I read a handful of articles based around the idea of what effective feedback looks like, and how immediate feedback using technology can be utilized in the classroom to improve student learning. First, I’d like to look at what traits your feedback needs to have in order to be effective with students, then I’ll examine how maker education can help us achieve this goal of meaningful feedback.

When you are talking feedback, the main thing is that the students have to use it for it to be effective (Hattie, Fisher, & Frety, 2016). Studies show that students respond to and better use positive feedback with negative feedback largely being ignored. The feedback needs to be actionable, and give the students a clear way path to move forward  (Hattie, Fisher, & Frey, 2016). Hattie, Fisher, and Frey offer that, “Feedback should help students answer these three questions: Where am I going (what are the success criteria)? How am I going (what progress am I making towards those goals)? and Where do I need to go next” (2016). When it comes to feedback, there is a heavy focus on student metacognition. Our feedback should be pushing students to think and reflect on their own learning, so they can start considering their own ways to move forward.

Another key point with feedback is to consider that, “the main purpose of feedback is to improve the student’s ability to perform tasks he or she has not yet attempted” (Wiliam, 2016). After all, the ultimate goal shouldn’t be to get students to perform better in your classroom, but to perform better in life. We aren’t trying to change the student’s work, we are trying to change the student (Wiliam, 2016).  Wiliam argues that often feedback comes too late, in the form of final grades on tests and projects (2016). Even if students can revise the work, it is usually heavily guided, which doesn’t result in great amounts of learning (Wiliam, 2016). Wiliam proposes that students should be doing much of the heavy lifting when it comes to feedback. He likens giving feedback to detective work, having students go through their own work and problem solve, or debug if you’ll allow me a more techy term. In the end, Wiliam states that, “The amount of feedback we can give our students is limited. In the longer term, the most productive strategy is to develop our students’ ability to give themselves feedback” (2016).

Now that we have an idea of what effective feedback looks like, let’s see how this comes into play with maker education. When you think about “making”, it is a creation process. You build something and it either works, or it doesn’t. Both are examples of immediate feedback. This is especially true if you build in iterations, adding more features as you progress, testing each one in turn. Through this process, you learn where you make your mistakes, and have to actively problem solve to get our product to function. Through maker education, feedback becomes focused on the learner’s own goals of getting something to work, and they start asking themselves those important questions Hattie, Fisher, and Frey brought up earlier: Where am I going? How am I going? Where do I need to go next?

 

References:

Hattie, J. j., Fisher, D. d., & Frey, N. n. (2016). Do They Hear You?. Educational Leadership, 73(7), 16-21.

Wiliam, D. d. (2016). The Secret of Effective FEEDBACK. Educational Leadership, 73(7), 10-15.

Reimagining Learning: Richard Culatta [Video file]. (2013, January, 10). In TEDx Talks. Retrieved June 3, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0uAuonMXrg#t=418

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