I’ve been reading Scott Young’s recently released book, Ultralearning, and I think it’s a pretty good summary of how one can take on an intense learning project for personal and professional development. It functions like an autodidact’s road map with plenty of good tips, insights, and stories to round things out. Elements of the animated bibliography are present, but I don’t find it contrived in its execution. The stories help frame the chapter and serve as an introduction to the core material.
It’s funny how last week I was talking about mnemonic devices, because after drafting that post I ended up reading about the concept in Chapter 10 of the book as it dealt with ways of supporting retention of material you learn.
In chapter 9 of the book, Young talks about ways of providing feedback in the learning process, whether the feedback is provided from others or feedback you can use in your own learning process. He parses out three kinds of feedback that I found interesting, not only for my own personal use in learning, but also as something I should keep in mind as a teacher.
The three kinds of feedback he outlines are outcome feedback, informational feedback, and corrective feedback. Each type of feedback serves a specific purpose, and you should be mindful of the context the feedback is given, as the wrong type of feedback can set you back in your learning.
Outcome feedback – provides information on whether you are getting answers right or if you are meeting a pre-identified set of learning objectives. It tells you that you are right but doesn’t give any indication of why (or why you are wrong).
Informational feedback – provides further information to explain the underlying reason why something is right or wrong. It can be informative to re-affirm what you have learned, and can identify key areas of strength or weakness, however it does not create a concrete process forward.
Corrective feedback – provides, as the name indicates, a path forward for the learner in terms of how to overcome deficiencies. It details not only how one is right/wrong, why they are right/wrong, but how to address or avoid being wrong. This type of feedback not only requires a level of comprehension of the material, but requires sufficient understanding to teach the underlying processes to the learner through explanation, demonstration, suggestion, etc.
As a teacher, it’s important to know what kind of feedback is warranted and under what circumstances. Most of us tend to focus just on outcomes, but students often don’t learn from pure outcome assessment. Rather, you need to take the further steps to go beyond an evaluation and ensure you are addressing the underlying deficiency present in the student’s performance. Outcome assessment is awesome because it’s quick and definitive, but it’s also lazy if your goal is to improve your students. On the other hand, corrective feedback is desirable but it’s labour-intensive and must be done carefully so as not to remove critical thinking from your student – you don’t want them to merely follow your instructions but instead you want to promote their thinking and reasoning through problems without your guidance.