Some of the greatest lessons I learned were on a softball field as a young adult. Oftentimes, I find myself making connections between that context of learning and the context of learning about instruction. Let’s make a comparison between a coach on a softball field and a teacher in a classroom and tie it all into feedback, which is one of the most powerful strategies in improving student achievement.
1. During any given practice, a softball player does not receive a score on their performance, but rather specific feedback, such as “hit the middle of the ball” or “keep your head tucked in when swinging.” This feedback is specific and directed towards one particular player.
What this means for feedback in the classroom: Do not mistake scores for feedback. Scores are oftentimes an end result and sends the message that learning is done. Instead, give feedback in relation to the learning target and success criteria in the form of a verbal conversation or written explanation, not a number. In addition, focus feedback on individuals as opposed to whole-class feedback.
2. When a coach enthusiastically yells “Way to go!” to a player, there’s a sense of pride and accomplishment. It makes them feel good. This is important; however, it also does not give feedback on improvement.
What this means for feedback in the classroom: There is a place for praise in the classroom. But, research shows that praise affect’s a student’s ego, not their achievement. And, when given in tandem with feedback, praise dissipates the power of the feedback. The lesson: give praise in the classroom, just separate it from feedback.
3. A coach does not wait until the end of practice and definitely not until the end of the season to give instruction to their players. Feedback is constantly given in the act of learning.
What this means for feedback in the classroom: The most powerful form of feedback is in the form of formative assessment, done daily and in the act of learning. A teacher’s “aha’s” about student learning should come daily or weekly as opposed to that happening as a summative assessment is graded.
What other analogies can you think of connecting coaching and instruction through the lens of feedback? I would love to hear your ideas!