May 17, 2011

Feedback and intrinsic motivation

The most critical part of a Results Only Learning EnvironmentTM is encouraging intrinsic motivation. It’s not as easy as defining it for students and saying that I want them to work hard and seek learning for learning’s sake, even though this is ultimately what I hope for. Intrinsic motivation has to be taught, re-taught and emphasized from the first day of school until the last day. It begins with the mantra, “Production, Feedback, Change."

The power of narrative feedback
I want students to value narrative feedback as an extension of an in-class lesson, so they can take the feedback and change the activity and improve it. Once students begin approaching learning this way, they will no longer look for points, percentages or letter grades on their projects and other activities. They will care only about the final results, which is what this type of education is all about.

What it looks like
Here are a few examples of narrative feedback that I have provided in my class:

Amber, I like your project so far. You are telling a very thought-provoking story. Some entries should be broken up, as they are a bit long. Also, check your facts; you mention Susan B. Anthony in an entry dated 1917. Anthony died in 1906. Well done overall, thus far, though.

Lucy, I love your story. Your character seems very real, with real emotion. Your writing is solid. Be careful, though, to proofread each entry carefully. For example, I saw this run-on in one of the early entries: “I heard a rumbling sound, I knew what was coming.”

This is a focus area for us, so be sure to correct it. Also, I'd like to see you start putting some of our vocabulary from either our vocab book or our literature book into your entries. Be sure to highlight these, if you do.
 Feedback like this helps fan the intrinsic motivation that I teach my students in the beginning of the year. The reward or punishment of a letter grade becomes less important than the specific, detailed feedback. Ultimately, students work harder, because they want the feedback.