How to approach feedback

How to approach feedback

“Teachers may claim they give much feedback, but the more appropriate measure is the nature of feedback received (and this is often quite little)” – John Hattie. Feedback, feedforward, instruction, prompting, cueing, guidance, we all know its documented importance in education.

Non-judgemental feedback during the creative process is an excellent tool to implement for students and teachers alike. It takes a bit of re-routing but once in place can be very powerful.

All you have to do is describe what they see or hear, easy right? Well, this is harder to do than one realises but once students have that factual description of what someone else sees, it provides them with a different perspective to their work. It has to be a methodical process, starting with the big picture (the most obvious) and then becoming more refined. And I suggest that one really starts with the words “I see” or “I hear” to frame it for students.

Next, contextualise the work by relating it back to the task. This is also the time where the viewer can start to talk about interpretation of what they saw. Does it match the task? What still needs to be done? What knowledge do you have to help you continue and develop?

The process very quickly draws one to details and makes things explicit that the students had possibly not realised or expected. It gives them new ideas to consider, try out and evaluate. It reveals what is missing. It talks as much about what is not present, as what is.

The thing I love about this is the autonomy it gives the creators and that it increases self-efficacy. It is not a teacher saying “Now you need to think about adding X so that  it fulfills the criteria.” It also avoids you passing a judgement that puts the work on a scale. It provides space for students to reflect and realise what needs to be addressed.

Project Zero have a great system for this as part of their ‘visible thinking’ routines. Called “I see, I think, I wonder” – describe what your see, comment on what it makes you think and then ask what it makes you wonder. It is a gradual progression that brings attention to observation, connects opinion, and finally thinking about possible alternatives or solutions.

Things to watch out for in the initial stage (because people just love to give their opinion when it comes to someone else’s creation), “I liked…”, “I feel like…”, “It was good that…”, etc. Strive to have the description first, there needs to be space between this step and adding opinion to digest and reflect. Get students to share what they have seen, it’s surprising how much can be extracted. Even this, being aware of how much is in front of them can open doors of possibilities.

 

**Header picture by my talened wife Nela Fletcher, for more click here

Important reasons why we should play

Important reasons why we should play

My eldest boy (born in the year of the Chinese rabbit), when comfortable, will search out contact and interaction with anyone …and everyone. We were recently in Colmar, France for the Easter vacation. Travelling with kids it’s their happiness that has to be a priority, more or less. As my wise father’s mantra goes ‘if the kids are happy, I’m happy’.

Part of that happiness was choosing where we booked our accommodation. We have learnt from our mistakes. The place we found in Colmar was a block of small holiday apartments that has an indoor swimming pool, a deal breaker. No matter the weather, we can be in the pool with the kids – kids happy, we’re happy.  On one occasion a few other families were enjoying, what I suspect was the same philosophy as ours. My eldest is five and lucky enough to be growing up bilingual (learning a third in Kindergarten) although all the other children in the swimming pool spoke French, which he doesn’t.

He eventually got himself into a game of catch with a girl probably three years older than himself. After fifteen minutes the ball was no more even a subject and the two of them were simply playing – but with clear communication. They had figured out structures, invented on the spot, about how they could construct rules of play and let the other know what the expectations were.

For a start I just found it cute then I really started to reflect on what they were doing. How open and accommodating to the situation they were, and through play managed to not only enjoy each other’s company but converse. The approach had me amazed at the complexity of the result. AND then to think about how we communicate with others who speak a foreign language. Ok, of course often our needs are for want of specific information – but how willing are we to let ourselves dive into a ritual of play to learn and converse with a foreign language speaker? And what results if one allowed themselves time to engage in that play?

In this case, an attention to body language and need of communication through which a common understanding was built. Playing simple games such as throwing a ball and coordinating jumping into the water simultaneously, they shared a resulting goal orientation and then forms of how to ‘talk to each other’ were established, and built on. In 40 minutes. 5 year olds.

This stretches far beyond barriers of language, leaving time and freedom for children to do what they do best can have incredible results. The various effects include peer-learning, new vocabulary, nuances and uses of language (both verbal and non-verbal), compromising, winning, losing, strategy creating, problem solving, discovery of life passions, stress release …dare the list go on? And on?

The pressures we put on fulfilling a task or ticking off knowledge acquired can adversely affect what we are really trying to achieve, which should be engaging and meaningful, and play can be that vehicle – at any age.

Overwhelmed, time to reflect

Overwhelmed, time to reflect

 

I’m currently directing (my first) school musical ‘Shrek’. We are down to the final rehearsals and there is so much happening in front of me, even when there only one or two people on stage. There are multiple options, choices, directions and outcomes – I get literally overwhelmed by it. Others I know are so quick to jump on a moment and work it out. Mostly,  I need perspective and time to reflect to know the right choice for what I want.

I feel the pressure of watching something, knowing it’s not right and not doing anything about it… Because I need the time to go away and think about it. I find it hard to trust this intuition and not try to ‘look’ like I am doing something about it and actually end up wasting more time.

It is a reminder to acknowledge strengths and weaknesses. Playing to one while working at improving the other, as long as all parties are aware that is how the (my) process works.

4 things dance class is good for

4 things dance class is good for

 

During parent-teacher conferences today I realised something that shouldn’t have really been as such a revelation as it was. A parent asked what style of dance I teach and I started (as always) explaining I don’t teach any particular style but tools with which to create, and design dance. Then, out of my mouth came “I don’t teach dance. I teach creative process through movement.”

And this is what I am trying to do. The students have taught skill sets to develop movement from any starting point through interpretation and then how to to organise it. They are encouraged to try out different possibilities and evaluate them, knowing that there are an infinite number of combinations in any given task. And I’m nowhere perfect in making this happen, it’s my challenge and I am getting better at it.

The parent listened to me and then turned to her son and said “…but there are still valuable things you can take from class like presence, presentation and good body posture.”

Its moments like these where one sees the huge disconnect that can occur between parents, their kids and their education. Without being careful we become those old dogs that cannot learn new tricks by thinking that education cannot change . As a parent and educator I beg you to stay informed about what your child is doing at school, trust the teachers and try to learn from them but importantly question them and try to understand what they are striving to accomplish. Most educators are on the ball and really giving it their all to prepare your child to deal with the world around them, preparing them to tackle it alone once they leave school.

I will endeavour to continue teaching the creative process above and beyond “presence, presentation and good body posture.”

The death of creativity and how to avoid it

The death of creativity and how to avoid it

“Mr Fletcher, we’ve finished.”

“No you haven’t, you’ve never finished.”

“Arrrghhhh….”

A fairly typical exchange with students in my class. A task with certain criteria is given; students enthusiastically undertake the challenge and run back five minutes later having checked off the elements that have to be included …only to find that what they have accomplished is an exercise in imagination – not creativity.

There is ALWAYS something else you can try, then compare and evaluate – always.

The fantastic aspect of creative process is the infinite possibilities. Students should gain a ‘mind-set’ of ‘grappling’ with a problem (notice my “hip” education words). By continual exploration and evaluation we reframe problems and look for fresh new perspectives. Solutions that were not obvious emerge, OR we can justify with certainty why solution X was awesome after trying other alternatives.

At some point we have to present, the metaphorical baby has to be birthed but it doesn’t mean that it is finished. As a professional dancer I knew premiere performances were not the dead end of development. When you work with curious, critical choreographers, the piece is reworked in an effort to be better… after opening night. As a creator there is a total shift in how you see your work after it’s shown to an audience, and that is important.

Admittedly within school constraints it can be difficult to finish an assessment and do it again, but this work should be happening formatively during the assessment. Students need to understand the concept of reworking and fleshing out detail, with the understanding that the product they submit is just a moment in time and space …it can always be tweaked and seen from a different perspective.

Creativity only dies, when you stop.