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Feedback and what good 'looks like'

Feedback and what good 'looks like'

I’ve been thinking about feedback and reminiscing about my younger days as a sports coach. When introducing a new skill to an individual, it was imperative I could model, or show an example of what ‘good’ looks like, otherwise learners would simply not know what they were aiming to achieve.

Learning something new is challenging and it becomes more so if we don’t know what good ‘looks like’. I’m not an engineer, but let’s take the example of learning a fillet lap weld. Without seeing what a good fillet lap weld looks like, it would be nigh on impossible for a learner to do one successfully. Take the correct use of apostrophes - without seeing the various uses of an apostrophe, one simply wouldn’t know how to use it.

However, just knowing what good ‘looks like’ isn’t enough to learn something effectively. Along the way to mastering a fillet lap weld, or correct apostrophe use, there’ll no doubt be mistakes made. This is where feedback is essential. According to Ramaprasad (1983, p.4) “Feedback is information about the gap between the actual level and the reference level of a system parameter which is used to alter the gap in some way.” In other words, feedback should identify the strengths and weaknesses of performance in relation to what good ‘looks like’. But is it that simple?

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