“Giving/Getting Good Feedback Takes time, a lot of patience from everyone involved in the process, a sense of caring to hear and voice it and the educator to mediate the whole process certain though that the process never ends for us or for them.”
The quote above is my response to Kevin’s blogpost title where it invites us to fill the blanks. I’m summarizing though what for me it takes to give and get good feedback. The kind of feedback that transforms and not lead one to conform. An educator when looking for feedback must honestly be looking for ways to improve the learning opportunities for the learners. Afterall that is why we step into the classroom everyday – to make the time they have there worthwhile. We can’t do that if they are not engaged in the process themselves.
So, getting or giving feedback becomes a dialogic tool. How honest ONE is about it and how much ONE chooses to share with ANOTHER will depend on so many factors, BUT it often comes down to our inability/ability to get pass the first difficult step: fear. Any sort of fear for that matter. My feedback to my students never aims at them as people, it AIMS at the learning process. Are we getting there? If not, why not? What are we missing something? It might be me not considering some aspects of learning or it might be the student. I can’t think for my students. I can answer the first question for myself through the tools I have – diagnostic activities, try to understand what my student is thinking or believe by asking questions, by observing, testing my assumptions, etc. So do my students. They have to engage in the process of inquirying for themselves. I can’t do that for them.
Some will argue though that it is difficult for one to give honest feedback. I totally agree with that. That is why it takes time and require patience, as well as the educator believing that sharing is caring. I have been deeply influenced by Paulo Freire and for those who read my blog or have talked to me personally will know that. When comes to ELT methodology Scott Thornbury has helped me see the dialogical process in a EFL class through Dogme discussions and texts which by the way for me is not about the framework but the fact that without communication there is no actually learning of a language. Language is the media, as well as the content. In the past year John F. Fanselow has also impacted me tremendously with his writings/Breaking Rule course and opportunity to exchange few messages with him. Needless to say those aren’t the only ones who have influenced me, these are the ones though who led me to see class interaction from another lens, through the lens of communication or dialogue. And in the universe of men, Paulo Freire’s daughter Madalena Freire has been another educator that comes to mind when I think of the process of getting and giving feedback – you can read about it in a post I wrote back in January 5th.
Often teenagers in my context feels empowered like Kevin points out in his post as they can see their opinion being taken into account or at least discussed through. Last week one of my teens groups (a group of 8 Ss) who had been trying to convince me to drop Edmodo pointed out in one of our informal conversations around the fact that sometimes they don’t understand why we use this and not that activity that I am the only teacher who really care to listen to them and gave Edmodo as an example. But then our discussion turned away from what we were previously discussing to the fact that they were not being fair to the other teachers, as they do not have the same opportunity that I do. I work with small groups (maximum 10) and I have loads of opportunities to get closer to each one of them. My curriculum is more flexible too. I do have like the other teachers to have grades posted by a certain dates and apply tests, but even so it is much different from their context of teaching. Without taking the time to chat with them about things related to school, learning, teaching and other stuff they would not be able to consider other points that they themselves should take into consideration when giving an opinion. Although I appreciate the fact that most of them now understand what I have been doing all along the year, there are few who still don’t. Simple as that. Who still can’t get pass the fear and learn to trust, not me actually but themselves. Learn that what they have to say is important and how they say it is that matters. That is what I always share with my learners. We can disagree all we want, what we can’t do though is to opt out or to stay neutral. I hardly get compliments from them for myself. I thought about that once and my understand is I don’t encourage them to focus on me but on themselves and what they are learning. I have never learned so much in the previous year as I have learned with and from them this year.
“It is also beneficial because they talk about class activities, think and talk about their own learning and become more critical and while they are doing that they can also be developing/making use of their language skills in L2.”