The Feedback Loop

Schools are closed on Veterans' Day. Still, I set an alarm, packed my bag, and rode my bike across town to meet a few awesome colleagues. It's the end of the first quarter, and a massive grading session was in order.

Armed with an almond croissant and the wifi password, I opened my laptop to a single window with only the necessary tabs. I spent a few (too many -- ironic) minutes selecting an appropriate focus/concentration/study Spotify playlist. I kept my phone mostly away. I buckled all the way down.

It wasn't long before I opened a few more tabs.

The original assignment description.
The rubric.
The unit plan.

But I wasn't distracted. It's just that I thought of so many new things as I read their work.
Hmm, this part of the instructions needs tweaking.
Yikes, that needs to be added to the rubric.
Let me add that to the unit notes.
Oh hey, these students executed this thing better than I even intended. I'll make that part of the project description in the first place.

The grading. The reflections. The adjustments. The planning.
It happens all at once because it has to.

It's a feedback loop. The output feeds the input feeds the output feeds everything.

I assign a Reflection for major assignments.
For this project, I asked students about their outcomes, their process, what worked, what they would do differently, how they feel about all of the things.

I also asked this question:

This is my first time teaching [this] unit and assigning [this] project. What advice do you have for me if I decide to teach it again? (I promise I do not take this personally, and truly value your opinions.)

And I do.
Their experience with this thing I made for them. It matters a lot to me.

The pair who had the best time, loves their project, and basically wants to do it again?  I'm overjoyed.
A terrific student who had a miserable time and suggests I never assign this again? Kills me.

The Reflection is about agency.
In writing it, students take ownership of the things they controlled.
How they worked. What they made. What happened.

And then. When asked.
Agency becomes affecting change for the things they could not control.
What I assigned. What the expectations were.

And it feeds back.

Reading their Reflections gives me agency, too.
In asking students how things could be done differently to improve their learning experience, I am tasking myself with taking that advice.
I am believing that their input is the most valuable feedback I can receive.

The learning is, after all, theirs.

I'm also learning how to be more attuned to indirect feedback.
When students aren't asked. Or don't tell.

When parts of an assignment are misunderstood, and the outcome is convoluted: I should have cleared things up.
When quiz grades are low but class discussions are informed and engaging: something's wrong with the questions I'm asking.
When the connections I thought were obvious are mostly absent: I should have been more explicit.

Teaching is a special gig. You get as many do-overs as you want.

And the learning is yours, too.

Photos from Chapterhouse Cafe, a wonderful coffee shop and grading space

1 comment:

  1. *sigh* You are my favorite teacher! Only you can make me miss teaching.