Feed Me Coach

26 Jun

Authors and management experts Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson claim that “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” This expression exemplifies the essence of current  research which illustrates how corrective, timely and specific feedback increases performance.  Effective feedback is  a component which propels us forward. This propulsion enables us to attain higher goals, achieve greater learning gains, and become more productive in the workplace and at home. Feedback is one of those things that simply makes the world go ‘round.

The concept of giving feedback, constructive criticism, tips, and pointers is not new. Any athlete or coach can attest to the vital importance of feedback.  Imagine watching a major league manager, or coach, walk into a practice, without talking. Imagine what would happen if the coaches were silent?  What if managers let those ball  players just “do their thing?” What if coaches claimed since all the plays and  skills were previously taught, it’s the players responsibility to simply remember? If this were the case, professional baseball would suffer a ridiculous demise. We’d never  buy another bag of peanuts or a foam finger ever again.

So, what does this segue into the seventh inning stretch have to do with education? Everything.  Just as coaches know the importance of routine, timely, specific, and skills-based feedback, we too must adopt this style of interactive dialogue with all our students. This crucial component is clearly articulated in one of my favorite professional texts:

  • Classroom Instruction That Works with English Language Learners, by Jane D. Hill & Kathleen M. Flynn

In this 12 chapter text, authors and educators Hill & Flynn identify several components of effective practice targeted toward English Language Learners. Chapter 3: Setting Objectives & Providing Feedback outlines a simple synthesis of best of research on the topic:

  1. Feedback should be corrective in nature.
  2. Feedback should be timely.
  3. Feedback should be criterion-referenced. (Give specifics based on skills & performance rather than a numbered or letter grade which may not have any meaning to the student).
  4. Incorporate opportunities for students to self-evaluate learning.

As in great baseball performance, effective learning requires great feedback. Adopt a coach-like attitude and share relevant, useful, and timely feedback with students. Use this as a way to create a dialogue in which each student has a chance to grow, improve, and learn. Just as that coach uses his or her expertise to engage in critical dialogue aimed toward improved performance, you too can do the same.  Our students deserve our very best, and our best includes giving feedback.  So, now that we know,  let’s go feed those students the breakfast they deserve…let’s make  learning champions out of them. And who knows, someday we too may work our way to Fenway Park, coaching the majors.

I wish you the best in excellence and instruction.

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