In this week’s episode of the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast, Steve examines how learning can occur from both failure and success.
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Steve [Intro]: 00:14 Hello and welcome to the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. For over three decades, I’ve had the opportunity to learn with educators at all levels, both nationally and internationally. I invite you to listen as I explore my thoughts and learning on a variety of topics connected to teaching, learning and leading with some of the best and brightest educators from around the globe. Thanks for listening in.
Steve: 00:41 Learning from failure and success. I’ve currently been studying German on the app, Duolingo. And I’ve been impressed by their approach to teaching and learning. And one of the fun components is the feedback process. Every now and then when I’m hard at work, a little image will pop up and say “Congratulations! You’ve got five right in a row.” Other times it pops up and says, “hard work is paying off.” I recognize their reinforcement of effort and persistence and consistency to be interesting. I’m currently on a 195 day streak and what that means is a 195 days — I’ve done my minimum of at least 15 minutes on the program without missing. But I’m most impressed with the feedback that occurs when I’ve had several failures in a row. A message might pop up that says, “making mistakes is a great way to learn” and it puts a smile on my face in the midst of that struggling time. Or the message will come up, “don’t give up while making mistakes, you are learning.”
Steve: 02:20 As I heard that response this past week, it dawned on me that I wish I would have been better at understanding and communicating that message when I was a grade five and six teacher. As a first grade teacher also. I was pretty good about sending kids the message about the importance of practice and effort. That they needed continued practice and effort and not to give up when they weren’t being met by success. And I would use the examples of learning to ride a bike or a learning to hit a baseball. But I realize that I was not clear in communicating the fact that the failure itself could produce learning.
Steve: 03:20 Sometime back, I found this question recorded by a reader on one of my blogs. They wrote, “do we learn more from winning or losing? The majority say from losing or failing. But if this is the case, then why do we push so hard for winning, which in schools we call passing.” After reflecting on the question for some time I wrote back, it isn’t winning or losing that produces the learning. It’s the debriefing or analyzing of the process that produces knowledge that one can gain from. It’s the value of reflection. Teachers, mentors, coaches help us to learn from our experience. Win or lose. In researching my response, I found an article titled “Systematic Reflection: Implications for Learning From Failures and Successes.” I’ll put the link to that in the description of this blog. The authors defined systemic reflection as a learning procedure during which learners comprehensively analyze their behavior and evaluate the contribution of its components to performance outcomes.
Steve: 04:58 I want to repeat that and think about the importance to this for our students and for those of you in coaching roles, the importance for teachers. Systematic reflection as a learning procedure during which learners comprehensively analyze their behavior and evaluate the contribution of its components to the performance. In other words, working to understand how my behavior influenced my outcome. They identify three components of systematic reflection. Self explanation, data verification and feedback. Let’s take a look at each. Self explanation has learners analyze their own behavior and advance an explanation for the resulting success or failure. It causes the learner to gather information, analyze it, and integrate data. As a coach, working with teachers, I might assist the teachers self exploration with questions such as these: “Why did you decide to model a strategy before you had the students attempt the work? What did you observe that helped you decide the effectiveness of the choice that you made? How closely did you do during the lesson, what you had planned to do and why?”
Steve: 06:44 During self explanation, the coach is not providing additional information but asking the questions that are causing the teacher to do that self explanation from a reflective process. The second element is called data verification. The authors describe here, “learners are confronted with a different perception of the same data.” They call it counterfactual thinking. That allows the learner to cross validate information that they hold before changing their mental model. That verification also enables learners to sidestep potential biases, including confirmation bias in which information that contradicts assumptions is overlooked and hindsight bias in which outcomes strongly affect how experience is viewed. This component strikes strongly to me at the value of coaching. Having another person in my classroom and hears and sees things that I missed. They’re seeing and hearing the results or responses from students that I missed. Often in a classroom, a teacher getting the desired responses from some students focuses on that desired responses, missing the nonresponse or inappropriate, incorrect working that might being done by, by some students.
Steve: 08:36 The power of a video clip can give a teacher another view that differs from the one that teacher had stored in his or her mind. Hearing another person’s thinking about the same data that was collected by the teacher can also generate a teacher’s re-evaluation for learning. Consider a coach sharing with a teacher, the actual conversation that took place among the cooperative group of students who were outside the teacher’s presence. Or the coach sharing the observations of students quiet behavior at a center while the teacher was facilitating a small group learning activity. The third element of systemic reflection is feedback. And the authors described two types of feedback. One is performance evaluation, where the person is judging the success or failure of the implemented process.
Steve: 09:52 And the second is feedback that aims to improve the process or the performance. The key here is for the learner to be responsible for the analysis of his or her performance data and for generating reasons why things went right or wrong. This whole process is just reinforcing more and more for me, why the critical work of the coach is in the questions that are being asked that cause the teacher, in this case, the teacher is the learner, to reflect and learn from that reflection. So a coach might ask, “What worked? What didn’t work? What do you think you uncovered from this experience? What will you do next?” A concluding statement in the article caught my attention. “By analyzing their successful experiences, learners become more aware of their share in the successes, which further increases their self efficacy. We know that students self efficacy is a critical outcome for graduating competent, confident learners. We won’t get student self efficacy without gaining teacher self efficacy.” And that for me really reinforces the importance of coaching generating reflection. As coaches working teachers through systemic reflection, we are in many ways modeling for teachers critical processes to be using with their students. Coaching can impact systemic reflection so that learning occurs from successes and failures and from all the land in between. Coaching can maximize learning.
Steve [Outro]: 12:05 Thanks again for listening. You can subscribe to Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud on iTunes and Podbean and please remember to rate and review us on iTunes. I also want to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on twitter @stevebarkley or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.