Thursday, October 4, 2012

Classroom Stories - I

Power of a right feedback

It was Akash’s turn for the 1st Term’s one-to-one feedback session at the Service Learning Program (SLP). As our conversation began, I told him how closely he reminds me of my own childhood. His expressions, his gestures and his tone – all appear so much like my own. Along with these, I can spot the areas for improvement too… same as my own. We had a lengthy conversation on his experiences at SLP and the areas that need to be worked on -- not only for him, but also for me as his facilitator. When we were about to end our session, Akash asks me, “Bhaiya, can I say something?”


“I remind you of your past, na bhaiya… I want to be like you in the future, bhaiya.”

I smile.

And he responds with his trademark smile.

These one-to-one feedback sessions have helped me understand my class so much more, so much better! It is helping me to design instructions, examples and pedagogy to use in class. I can now better relate with all of them and their responses in the classroom. I understand their aspirations, their dreams their goals and their struggles so much more.

I recently read an article – Finessing Feedback – by Marge Scherer. I have been experimenting with some of the concepts discussed in there. So now in our feedback sessions, we no more end with a ‘good job’ or ‘this is where you can improve’. We now discuss if something was good, why it was and how it can be better and if something went wrong, why was so and how can we set it right. So when Akash drew in his life map that his biggest learning from his family is – how to love, that was something inspiring. For teens of his age to admit such a thing in an open forum may at times be embarrassing (and in fact it many others giggled at it when he said this). In our feedback session, we discussed how courageous it was and how beautiful this idea his. I asked him, how he thinks he can use this quality to enhance team building in SLP group (which I have been struggling with for quite some time).

This Sunday, we did Life Maps with students and to start the class we tried to understand what a map is, beyond its geographical understanding. I was delighted to hear what Ashwini offered, more because of the kind of connections she made than what she explained. I could have simply said “awesome” or “good job”! However, we together tried to understand why she said whatever she did. She linked to concepts of historical maps and genetic maps to arrive at a generalized definition of maps. This helped us in two ways beyond basic job of appreciation. One, it helped me to point her beautiful thought process to herself. Two, it helped me to present a wonderful example to my other students, how we link various learned concepts to generate new concepts for us.

Another of my students, Shanu, in one of his home tasks, had designed a plan for community service through his favourite subject, geography. His idea was interesting; however planning had to be more meticulous. So together, we prodded into finer details to arrive at something which made better sense. This exercise excited him to work on it better. He said, “bhaiya, I would like to redo the entire task and share it with you tomorrow.” I said, “Fine, as long as you are interested in improving your work, I am okay with it.”

Marge in his article, very interestingly have shown that by changing the tone and content of our feedback, we can actually push our students to think better, clearer and farther. And I am already seeing its benefit. With Akash and all my students.

I see great potential and determination in my students. After all coming every Sunday morning after a hectic week of junior college and tens of other commitments is not an easy thing. And in them is where I draw my motivation from.

When Akash was walking out of the discussion room, I called for him, “Akash… I don’t want you to become like me… I want you to become like you… someone who is… may be… hundred times better than who I could become... Go, send the next one in.”

He smiled, “yes bhaiya”, and left.