Feedback or Feedforward?

Feed students forward.


My middle schoolers eyes widened as we began classes last year with this simple statement: We are going to try something new. Instead of saying feedback, we are going to say feedforward.  We don’t want to feed each other back as learners, we want to feed one another forward.  I wanted to work on having conversations with my students about learning and growing not memorizing and compliance.

We made a commitment as a group to use the word feedforward.  If I ever used the word feedback students were quick to correct me.  They understood the idea of changing the word meant changing the mindset.  It was important to each of them because it was about learning and growing and it meant that they mattered!   It will be a word that lives forever in any space that I am a part of!   I truly believe that this small change in language is making a difference in the relationship between me and the learners I come in contact with and is helping us to cultivate a growth mindset!

So why do we give students what is called “feedback”?  I haven’t done much research, however, I did look up the definition.

The formal definitions of feedback from Merriam – Webster dictionary online is –

  1. 1:  the return to the input of a part of the output of a machine, system, or process (as for producing changes in an electronic circuit that improve performance or in an automatic control device that provide self-corrective action)

  2. 2a :  the partial reversion of the effects of a process to its source or to a preceding stageb :  the transmission of evaluative or corrective information about an action, event, or process to the original or controlling source; also :  the information so transmitted

  3. 3:  a rumbling, whining, or whistling sound resulting from an amplified or broadcast signal (as music or speech) that has been returned as input and retransmitted     (

This definition seems to me to be made for machines or processes, but humans are not just a set of processes.  Can we make a better definition and call it feedforward?  Feedforward is not in the dictionary.  If I were to define feedforward in my classroom it might sound like this,

Feedforward is the analysis of a work, through which areas for growth are found and communicated so the work can move ahead, better than the original.

I wonder if this leads to a more innovative mindset?

So as educators move forward into this new frontier of what is possible in education how does feedforward feel?

For me its sense of what’s possible, of what can I do to feed this forward to make it better, and what can I do to produce new and brave ideas.  That’s what I want for my students and for the world.  I’m going to continue to feed my students forward by letting them know they are receiving feedforward. I truly believe that the choice of using FORWARD or BACK can make a huge difference in the mindset of our students!  I choose feedforward!

#edfeedforward #feedforward

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Passionate, curious, science educator, learner, photographer, and outdoors woman! I love to learn new things and share great ideas! All the photos on this blog are my own. Copyrighted 2016 Deborah Holman.

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