The Dog who Pooped on the Rug: A Feedback Fable

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.”

But I didn’t go to the shops. I waited outside, by the window, peering in.

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

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.
        • 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?

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