Bandwith Approach to Supporting Learning

Yesterday’s talk by Royce Sadler at the University of Canberra has sent me off on a journey thinking about how learners flourish.

I liked Royce’s reference to texts from the last forty years. The trail for Royce’s talk had started me reflecting on Peter Dowrick’s work on feedforward and Ian Franks and Gary Miller’s (1991) paper Training Coaches to Observe and Remember.

After Royce’s talk I revisited a paper by Kristine Chambers and Joan Vickers (2006) on the Effects of Bandwidth Feedback and Questioning on the Performance of Competitive Swimmers.

The paper reported:

  • A coaching intervention involving Bandwidth Feedback and Questioning (BF-Q) on competitive swim times (cTIME), practice swim times (pTIME), and technique (TECH)
  • With a cohort of competitive youth swimmers over one short-course (25m) swim season.
  • Kristine and Joan concluded that coaching in which feedback was delayed and replaced with questions directed to the athletes contributed to improved technique and subsequent faster race times.
  • Compared to the Control group, the BF-Q group displayed greater gains in TECH during the intervention period and greater improvement in cTIME during the transfer period.

Kristine and Joan discussed two powerful issues arising from their research:

  1. It demonstrates that swimmers were aware of their ability to affect gains in personal athletic development. These results emphasize the importance of self-regulation, personal control, and active learning to efficient and heightened skill acquisition.
  2. Although swimmers described increases in mental work encouraged by their coach, the improvement in communication seemed to override any negative effects of the cognitive load. Improving coach-athlete interaction was one goal of combining questioning with bandwidth feedback. The present study supported the combined use of questioning and bandwidth feedback to enhance learning and maintain effective coach-athlete relationships.

I think this paper is an interesting empirical support for some of the points Royce made in his talk. In arguing for this resonance I am aware that I am attracted to bandwidth ideas.

Some time ago (twenty years in fact) Richard Schmidt discussed the impact frequent augmented feedback can have on learning. I liked his distinction between the performance impact of feedback and longer term learning.

Royce’s presentation, revisiting Kristine and Joan’s paper and returning to Richard’s arguments have encouraged me to work through Franz Marschall, Andreas Bund and Josef Wiemeyer’s (2007) meta-analysis of augmented feedback in the e-Journal Bewegung and Training 1. Their analysis reviews 40 papers published from 1989 to 2000.

Photo Credits

Coaches watching the fight

Coach with the wrestler’s hat

Teaching Learners to Notice (2)

Royce Sadler discussed assessment practices in a presentation at the University of Canberra today.

In his introduction Royce noted his concerns with feedback and suggested that we must think differently about how to support learners.

Royce’s presentation was based on a late draft of a book chapter.

His first points were about formative and summative assessment and Michael Scriven’s work. In his presentation Royce contemplated the assessment of complex works. (See Royce’s 1989 paper on some of these issues.)

He discussed the characteristics of feedback and noted that it entails “our reactions to the quality of students’ work that includes marks, comments, and discussions.” It is “information we give that we hope will help”.

Royce argued that feedback is labour intensive and intellectually demanding. We know that students will receive our comments cold away from our presence. This places an emotive load on the teacher and raises as an issue our sensitivity to ‘student as a person’.   Royce suggests that this is a high investment of labour and has a low return. Some students appear to have a recurring issue that remains unchanged by feedback.

Royce noted the work from the 1960s onwards research on feedback (for a summary, see, for example, Royce’s 2010 paper Beyond feedback: Developing student capability in complex appraisal).

Some students focus on marks rather than the feedback they receive and dilute their responsibility for improvement. Some students make strategic decisions about satisfying a unit’s minimumrequirements.

Royce noted that the literature identifies some basic feedback guidelines:

  • What was good.
  • What was weak and where it was weak.
  • What could have been better.
  • Future practice.

Royce observed that “feedback is about telling … that is the problem”. He discussed this dilemma and noted its roots in the transmission model of education. He proposed an alternative model in which teachers were the bridge in students’ journeys from what they know to incorporating information they did not know to develop their knowledge.

Royce addressed assessment’s role in learning. In his 1989 paper he argued that works of high quality require a reference. Thus a student who is developing his or her work is able to compare quality of the work she or he is producing.  He suggested that competent learners know how to monitor development of their work.  They are able to attend to their work as a whole and to small scale items that need attention. High quality producers move between these two spaces effortlessly.

This led Royce to discuss the characteristics of expertise. These include:

  • Preliminary tentative ideas of goals and strategies
  • Then clarity through noticing the things that matter.
  • Proceed instinctively, self-questioning with subtlety and precision.
  • Able to sense weakness and incompleteness.
  • Able to self identify mistakes, detect inconsistencies, and lapses in continuity.
  • Able to sense the users of material.
  • Exhibit contingency management.
  • Have a personal repertoire of moves.

Royce argued that ‘traditional’ assessment practices require the assessor to judge a problem, repair the response and give advice. Yet these are a student’s responsibility.  He argued forcefully that Noticing is a key to student flourishing.

In developing his argument about noticing, Royce pointed to Carl Bereiter and Marlene Scradamalia’s (1993) Surpassing Ourselves: An Inquiry into the Nature and  Implications of Expertise; Bruner’s discussion of concept acquisition; Wittgenstein, and Polanyi amongst others.  He referred too to Hubert and Stuart Dreyfus’s (2005) discussion of expertise:

Contrary to the claims of knowledge engineers, we argue that expertise in general, and medical expertise in particular, cannot be captured in rule-based expert systems, since expertise is based on the making of immediate, unreflective situational responses; intuitive judgment is the hallmark of expertise. Deliberation is certainly used by experts, if time permits, but it is done for the purpose of improving intuition, not replacing it. The best way to avoid mistakes is to take responsibility for them when they occur, rather than try to prevent them by foolproof rules.

Royce mentioned Paul Meehl’s work on configural seeing in the context of expertise too.

Royce concluded his presentation with a discussion of feedback in relation to Lev Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development (“the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers”). This led to Royce sharing a story about his own development as a teacher learning through practice.

Photo Credits

Writing a paper

20101103 UCT Activity Theory

Teaching Learners to Notice: Introduction

The University of Canberra’s Teaching and Learning Centre has hosted a presentation by Professor Royce Sadler on assessment and feedback. The title of his talk was  Reworking the concept of feedback: Teaching learners to notice

The trail for the presentation was:

Teachers in higher education often feel frustrated by the modest impact the feedback they provide on student works seems to have in improving student learning. In this presentation, the dependence on feedback is challenged primarily on the grounds that it involves ‘telling’. For students to become self-sustaining producers of high quality intellectual and professional ‘goods’, they must be progressively equipped to take control of their own learning and performance. The alternative way forward begins with a close examination of the conditions under which students can become better at monitoring the emerging quality of their work during the production process. This requires a reworking of teacher‑learner interactions, which not only challenges the dominant feedback‑based paradigm, but also has better prospects of developing independence in learning.

With my interests in observation and feedforward I was an early sign up for the presentation. The title of Royce’s presentation did remind me of Ian Franks and Gary Miller’s (1991) paper Training Coaches to Observe and Remember.

Photo Credit

Professor Emeritus Royce Sadler