Responsiveness: The Power of Feedback
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With headphones, microphone and
amplifier, I can feedback to your ears the sounds of your own speech,
faster and clearer than they normally reach your ear by air and
convection. Result: both your speaking and thinking will be clearer and
faster for hours afterward.
With the same gear and a tape recorder
with loop to delay feedback to your ears for 1/8 second (or with very poor
acoustics in some auditorium or hall), I can so muddy your speech and
thinking that you'll go around confused for hours afterward.
Studiously ignored by six or so
generations of American teachers, Maria Montessori in the 1900s
demonstrated that learning comes best, easiest, strongest and most
effectively when it comes as feedback from the environment as a result of
one's own activities. In the 1950s O.K. Moore - who still is based in
University of Pittsburgh's Sociology Department (1997 note:) - used only
feedback from a child's own spontaneous activity to teach 2-year-olds to
read, type and write.
Summing up findings after 30 years of
his intensive studies of the brain and vertebrate nervous systems,
Santiago Ramon y Cajal, acknowledged father of neuroanatomy, in 1911 wrote
that it was feedback through the senses from one's own activities,
especially from the activities of infancy, that most developed the cells
and circuits of the brain.
The entire content of the field of study
of Behavioral Psychology is in terms of effects of feedback from
responses. (All reinforcement is feedback, by definition.)
The secret of success in dealings with
business fellows, friends, or even your own family, is: make the other
person feel good about the things you feel he is doing right.
Would you rather work in a firm where
everyone ignored you and it didn't seem to make any difference what you
did - or in a firm where people noticed and responded to you, and where
the things you did appeared to make a difference? In which setting would
you work at your best? And what environment for learning
Which way would your child answer for
himself, given the same sort of choice? Why, then, do you expect him to
get anything from his schooling the way that such schooling is usually set
The proper role of the schools is: to
enrich, repair, support, reinforce learners -- and then get the heck out
of their way. It matters not one whit what the schools teach: it matters
only what the learners learn, and all else is costly distraction. What
would things be like if our schools were centered on what learners were
In Your Own Home:
Is your own child growing from his
strengths, or is he mainly having to fit into the spaces he is directed
into by your expectations, leaving behind his special awarenesses, his
initiatives, the things which catch or have caught his interest which
could have most strongly motivated and empowered his development as a
human being? (--And what have YOU yourself been forced to leave
The basic human nutrition is:
appropriate feedback. Does your child have enough of your time and
attention for you to be able to provide that?
And on the Other Foot:
Which child are you more likely to like
and accommodate: that little urchin who really appears to hear what you
say and seeks to respond to it, even though he usually goes his own way;
or the child who is unresponsive even if apparently obedient?
Correspondingly: with your own friends,
co-workers, associates: when are you likely to be more accepted, more able
to "get away with more?" When you actually hear them and take their views
into account, even though you often then go on and go your own way? --Or
when you don't hear what they are saying, even when you don't step out of
There are numerous larger issues looming
here. How many of them do you see? Click on the Talkback link below and share some of them with your
colleagues and fellow readers....