This is a fable about feedback I tell my students every year. It has 💩 in it, so I think they like it…
The Dog who Pooped On the Rug
One day I decided to adopt a dog. I went to the pound and met a beautiful border collie puppy.
I named him after my favourite cartoon character, Dexter.
Just like cartoon Dexter, dog Dexter is a genius.
But like all dogs, Dexter didn’t know where to poop. I left him alone in my house and when I returned I saw this.
Dexter had pooped on my rug.
Dexter was happy to see me but I was mad. I said “bad dog.” and sent him outside.
Because Dexter is a genius I was sure he would take my feedback on board and stop pooping on rugs.
He did not. The next day, when I returned from work…
“Bad Dog, Outside.”
Surely, he understood now.
He did not.
You see, Dexter did his poop on the rug hours before I returned home. He pooped on the rug, looked out the window, chased his tail for half an hour and had a nap.
When I came in the door making a fuss, Dexter wasn’t pooping, he was just chilling. All that feedback I was giving him was coming far too late!
So I made a plan.
The Interrupted Poop
“Bye Dexter, I’m off to the shops.”
I saw him go to the rug. I saw him sniff, I saw him circle. I saw him squat.
“Dexter! No, poop outside.” I calmly explained.
And he did. Good Dog.
The moral of this story is simple. Immediate feedback is the best feedback. If a student tries a question in my maths class, I want them to know IMMEDIATELY whether they got it right or wrong.
As a teacher this means a few things.
- Avoid giving tasks that don’t allow for immediate feedback. If you’re giving a worksheet, give them the answers. If you’re giving “digital worksheets”, you can give my “invisible digital ink” trick a try.
- Find tasks that give “natural feedback”. When students are coding, for instance, if the code doesn’t run or doesn’t do what they want it to do, that’s natural feedback.
- Use the technology we have to give more timely feedback. For instance google forms will allow for quizzes to automatically mark AND provide feedback on incorrect answers. (my tutorial on how to use it can be found here)
- Encourage students to SEEK feedback. After I tell my fable to students, they’ll often come to me and say “I don’t want to be a dog sir, can I get some feedback on this”.
Feedback is the most important tool we have educators. Whether it’s math, english or poop on a rug. Find ways to get them their feedback as fast as you can.
How can you give more immediate feedback to your students?