Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Importance of Feedback

It is finally a day of sunshine here, at least for the moment, after days of rain and storms.  It is nice to look out my window and see the green of the trees.  I can't see my red birds and blue birds at the feeder at the moment...as I have not been able to make it to the feeder!  I am hoping by weekend, I can saunter that way and fortunately, it only takes a few hours before they spread the word:  "She's back!  Lunch!"

It is really slow going this morning, but I am beginning to perk up and hope to manage at least a few things today.  My "down" extended into yesterday, and most especially after the grueling Physical Therapy session yesterday afternoon.  I really like the PT who is assigned to me, and to the others in the facility with whom I interact, but liking aside, rehab is darned hard work.  I felt an incredible sense of accomplishment yesterday in all I was able to do--major improvement.

Remember Tommy Lee Jones and the desire for fun?  I am working on strengthening the muscles--quads, hams, knee, ankle, etc, that support the job the leg and knee have to do for us.  That has involved some effort and hard work, and a few times, downright pain.  I made a milestone yesterday, though, and that was to get my knee bent all the way in the 90 degree angle with the lower leg straight down.  I am still working for bending from a lying position, or raising the knee from a standing position, but to manage finally to get that knee bent was pretty exciting.  After I managed to do that, then I got to the fun part.

A band went around my thigh just above the knee, and was connected to a small device that resembled a pager.  On the end of the device were lights--green to yellow to red in a series of little dots.  When I tightened the quads, and squeezed the kneecap--both of which are regular exercises for regaining movement in the knee, the lights would come on.  Green, green, green, green, green...then to yellow, then to red, red, red, red.  My goal was to stay in the red, and to get to the last red, which of course, could occur only by my tightening the muscles and holding.

It was fun because it was rather like a video game of sorts if you will--demonstrating my skill. (Note: I am not at all into video games, but it was sort of like playing one with my leg muscles. :)  The feedback enabled you to see where you needed to exert greater effort to accomplish the goal.  It was really exciting (I know what you are thinking, but I have not had a great deal of competition for excitement this past week) when I got the red light into the last dot.  I managed to achieve that level about 3-4 times during the whole set of 20.  What I did see was that even though I had thought I was exerting a lot of effort, it was not effective effort--the benefit of feedback.

As an educator and practitioner, I have always been a believer in the importance of feedback.  You cannot teach nor learn without use of feedback, nor can you deliver effective social work services without use of feedback to and from the client system.  It was like a light bulb going off when I could immediately see if my efforts were producing the desired outcome, and to be able to immediately alter my "intervention" to improve the results.

I found myself thinking later last night how helpful such a device could be in so many areas.  I wondered if we hooked our students up to the device--only around their brain instead of a leg--that they could see the complexity of their thinking.  If the device stays green, you are still not complex, i.e., not using critical thinking at a sufficient level to produce an appropriate outcome.  When the student moved to greater complexity in thinking, the device would begin to light up in yellow, and, eventually, red.  Would that motivate students to increase the effort in thinking, as it motivated me to increase my efforts at tightening the kneecap and quads?  One of the most discouraging things for many of us these days (not just in social work, although it seems so much more relevant to me due to the need for complexity in thinking in order to practice effectively) is that students are so superficial in their thinking.  So many of them just want "the right answer" without having to think about the question, and consider all the many and varied complexities that are involved in how humans think, feel, and do.  I would go so far as to say that there is seldom if ever "one right answer" even when there are definitely some things that must be present in any "answer."

To have complexity of thinking, it is important that we have a curious nature--an interest in questions and questioning, and in looking beyond the obvious and superficial.  Our current system of education consists primarily of memorizing facts and statistics, answering tests about those facts and statistics, and does not encourage the level of thinking that contributes to complexity, or to curiosity.

And, speaking of creativity and curiosity, check out the video about the Inupiat culture made by a class of middle schoolers in Barrow, Alaska.  It is a good example of use of complexity and curiosity not yet been stamped out by the narrow confines of "education" in the US.  If only all assignments were relevant to our lives...


Beth said...

Well said, thank you! Without going into a lengthy essay here, I'm seeing the things you mention in my fellow students. My current instructor has made comments about her observations of students, especially the young ones who don't want to do assignments and want everything answered for them. There was quite an uproar when she explained there was no workbook to be used for this class because if we relied on the workbook we would not be able to think through the accounting problems and thus learn the material! One of my most enjoyable classes was on creativity, critical thinking and problem solving. There is nothing wrong with thinking, for pete's sake. End of essay!

Suzassippi said...

Amen, sista!