CATEGORY: Human Competence | AUTHOR: Racheal Smith
Feedback is the Golden Thread
Feedback is so vital to learning that we have it more than once in our journey. It helps focus and refocus time and again to move forward with purpose.
Learning can feel lonely, especially ongoing lifelong learning. While as adult learners we might not need the gold star from the teacher anymore, we all still need that guidance and affirmation from an outside perspective. While including feedback in our approach to learning calls on age-old techniques for personal development, it is a symbol of our desire to blend human interaction with the ease of access offered in a tech platform.
What do we mean by feedback?
Feedback is information delivered to you about your performance or level of understanding, usually by someone in a position of authority or expertise. It is a means of engaging, informing, increasing knowledge, and correcting performance.
There are many ways to give people feedback. It can be given spontaneously; it can be provided episodically in formally arranged procedures; it can come at the end of a session of learning when an assessment has been completed; it can be an annual appraisal in the workplace.
All this sounds formal and inhuman, and for some people receiving feedback can feel intimidating. Even though feedback is one of the most powerful tools for personal and professional development, without a structure and the right tone, it can be counterproductive. Feedback also needs to be timely if it is to be effective.
Getting feedback right
It seems that feedback is one of the most crucial elements of learning but one of the easiest to get wrong. With so much on the line, we put much thought into how we can thread feedback throughout our approach to learning.
Feedback as a diagnostic tool: our approach to learning is founded on the learner’s ability to personalise their learning. However, starting to learn without first hearing what you need to work on is challenging. Therefore, we designed a 360 tool that encourages our learners to seek responses from guides who can tell them their strengths and learning needs – and a sentence to explain their choices. Imagine hearing from 10 people what Character Qualities are your strengths and which you need to work on. This is where our learners begin their journey. We suggest coming back to this beginning every few months to reorientate learners.
Feedback as ongoing encouragement: our learners are also encouraged to invite two assessors to work with them on their journey. The assessors can be tutors or line managers or anyone working closely with the learner. In our support material, we encourage these nominated others to give ongoing support and encouragement, feedback in the flow of learning, which will help motivate and keep the learner on track.
Feedback as reward and award: there are then those moments when a learner needs to know they have reached a milestone. We offer assessments and the assessors can declare “Yes, you have progressed” or “Not yet, and here’s why”. Whatever answer the assessor gives, we ask that they give pointed and purposeful feedback that helps the learner continue the journey. There are no end points in lifelong learning, and it is the role of those giving feedback to signpost a possible route the learner could take.
Why is feedback the golden thread?
In any learning endeavour you need to commit to a golden thread that holds your systems together. Learning is messy and tangential and illogical – and so it should be. However, as facilitators, we need to offer an element that holds this all together and finds value in the component parts. It is the metaphor used by educationalists that say you must link the processes, technology, strategy, and results with a single thread: ours is feedback.
While our learning system is a tech solution, the human stakeholders in our solution are integral. Our character is distinctly personal and emotional, and we need connection with others to reach our potential. And so, as humans are at the heart of our product, we threaded the parts of our learning together with feedback – and we know its impact for our learners is golden.