Posted by: darcymullin | January 31, 2011

What I learned today

I have been doing a lot of thinking about my dad lately.  He taught me many things, more than I probably give him credit for.  However, one thing he did not bestow upon me was any “handy” skills.  My wife and friends will attest to the fact that when it comes to home projects I am a comedy of errors.

Today I had to re-hang two simple towel racks in our bathroom.  I had improperly hung them before, they were uneven and not level.  To be honest, they looked terrible.  Why is that?  I know when I did it I took care, measured things and really tried my best.  I know what the towel racks should look, so why the struggle? Then it occurred to me, I knew what it should look like, but none of the smaller processes it takes to do the job properly.  This is my problem when it comes to home improvement – I can’t break down the task and I don’t understand the process.  I lack the experience – dear old dad never modeled it for me.

What does this mean for education?  Lots I think – particularly for our struggling learners.  They can see what they are supposed to do, particularly if we are using exemplars, but are not sure of the route to get there.  They don’t have the experience of success; perhaps the route has never been modeled for them.

John Hattie tells us that in order for feedback to effective, it must act like a scaffold between where the student is and the task they are attempting.  He argues that effective feedback MUST answer three major questions asked by a teacher and/or by a student:

1) Where am I going? (What are the goals or Intended Learning?)

2) How am I going to get there? (What progress is being made toward the goal?)

3)Where to next? (What activities need to be undertaken to make better progress?)

Feedback that does not take these factors into consideration may as well not even be offered.

Back to my towel racks.  I have a clear grasp of #1 (Intended Learning), a certain understanding of #2, because I have been practicing.  I have done it before seen my mistakes and made some improvements.  When it comes to #3 I have no clue. Even after reflecting on previous errors and follies when I re-hung them I could not make them even – they will be on a slight angle for evermore…and I have no clue what I could do differently.

Thanks DAD!



  1. Thanks for the post Darcy! I think I share your “talent” for handy work, although I am slowly improving. So much of what we expereince as adults translates back to the classroom and what we do with kids. This “real world” connection can bring more relevancy to our teaching which can, at times, occur in a vacuum. The scaffolding of feedback is the really the only way our students will improve. Thanks for the post and good luck with the next project!

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