Baggage claim can be stressful. Did my luggage make it? You think that it is yours and as you go to grab it another person snags it up. If you miss your bags, not to fear, it will come around again. Some uncomfortable moments. Feedback can be uncomfortable but is vital to improvement. I want feedback with my students to be like the baggage conveyor … a constant loop between my choir and myself. I need feedback from them and they need feedback from me. So, how do you create and maintain a productive feedback loop?
Give Feedback Quick
Each year I take 30 or more vocal solos to Regional Music Contest. The students perform, results are posted throughout the day, but the judge’s comment sheets are picked up at the very end of the day. The students are anxious to read the feedback. We are back on the bus heading back and students just can’t wait. Most of the time I have chose keep them until I have read and processed the comments then given them to the students. My thinking, combined with the notes that I took on their performance, I could make the feedback better and meaningful and for those that did not score well I could soften the blow and help them put it in to perspective. After reading Practice Perfect I am questioning my reasoning. They mention that the famous coach John Wooden obsessed about giving feedback immediately (I would like to read more about Wooden). They make a strong point for giving the comment sheets to the students right away and I could see if it could be coupled with “do it again” those that did not score well could erase the memory of failure with a successful one.
- Speed of consequence beats strength of consequence pretty much every time. Give feedback right away, even if it’s imperfect.
- Remember that a simple and small change, implemented right away, can be more effective than a complex rewiring of a skill
I seem to be always analyzing; always thinking of what the choir is doing wrong and then thinking how I can motivate them to fix it. What this means is that I phrase what they are doing wrong in a positive way so that I don’t destroy their self-esteem and drive to get better. Okay, I follow this approach until about two weeks before performance and then skip all niceties and fix, fix, fix. The students notice and I hear them saying, “Matlock has his game face on today.” The authors cite a 1999 book by Marcus Buckingham that tout “organizations get further managing strengths than weaknesses.” Do I spend as much time thinking of the student’s strengths as weaknesses? My rehearsal planning centers around strategies for fixing what is wrong rather than stemming from rehearsing strengths. This chapter really is making me think about what kid of “strengths” should I be looking for that I can redirect and capitalize on that will lead to successful performance. Now, I know I can’t ignore the wrong notes, sloppy diction, incorrect rhythm but are their strengths that my choir might have a collective whole that I can use as springboards in other areas? Stated another way, are their strengths that can give the ensemble traction?
Formula: identification, replication, and application
Being positive is more than just a means to making someone feel good or a way to motivate them to work harder. “It helps people use practice more effectively to get better.” Just think, if I can teach my choir and students a process of practice that they can use in other areas of their life and in other music practice situation I have accelerated the learning curve. Teaching students using the formula of identification, caching them doing it right, having them do it again, replication, and then directing them to other situations where they can use this skill is a simple effective feedback strategy.
- What people do right is as important in practice as what they do wrong.
- Help people use their successes in three ways: With a statement of identification to help participants see what they did right more clearly With a statement of replication to help them do it again. With a statement of application to help them see new settings in which to apply their skill