Schooling Magazine

Meaningful, Real-time Feedback

By Stevemiranda

I attended a great conference today, in which I got to hear a Chicago-area teacher named Dr. Tae elaborate on his thoughts about learning.

He uses skateboarding as an example of the learning process in its most authentic state. In the video, he documents his attempt to learn a challenging skateboarding trick. He tries over and over, failing time after time, until on the 58th try he nails it. That’s 57 failures and one success.

Then he pointed out an uncomfortable fact: there was no teacher present at the moment he learned the trick. No one off the side with clipboard shouting out “C-minus!” when an attempt floundered, or “B-plus!” when he almost got it. The only teacher, he said, was the concrete and board, which gave him all the feedback he needed.

This, he argues, is true of all learning. It’s a radical philosophy: the role of the teacher in learning is simply to provide meaningful, real-time feedback. (Sorry, grades don’t count as “meaningful.”)

I think back to a class I taught at PSCS in the fall on narrative structure. I taught in the traditional format of starting class with a humorous anecdote to focus students’ attention, then explaining a concept to them, then having them practice the concept. I’m now wondering how the class would have been different if I’d limited my role to merely providing meaningful, real-time feedback.

That is, I could have started class by asking them to write a story. Then, when I observe a structural error in their writing, I could have seized the teachable moment and provided feedback.

It’s a different way of looking at teaching, and one worth exploring.

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