Positive Learning

eAssessment Scotland was definitely a successful first conference. I left exhausted but excited and inspired; we really could make a difference. I came away with hundreds of questions that only continued to multiply- the sure sign of lessons learned. From everything I absorbed one word stands out like a Times Square billboard: Feedback.
Every aspect of the conference, whether intentional or not, spoke of the importance of feedback. Specifically positive feedback. Children are taught that failing is failing, rather than being encouraged that everything is a learning curve, failing is always learning. In the adult world mistakes will almost always have consequences, sometimes grave ones, but at the end of the day it’s how we deal with these mistakes that defines us, it’s the lessons taken from the errors that count. If we keep saying WRONG WRONG INCORRECT INCORRECT children will never learn.
I have been taking my Yorkshire Terrier puppy to training classes, and the first thing we learned was never shout at the puppy, never tell it off for doing something wrong. Why? Because it doesn’t understand; shouting at your puppy only has the effect of scaring it and builds negative connotations towards you, the owner. The second thing we learned was praise. Every time the puppy does something well you give it a treat, if it does something wrong you encourage it, very enthusiastically, to do the correct action; positive feedback. Gradually my puppy is learning, he understands the treat process and enjoys the praise to the point he now follows me around the house to perform tricks for me. People do this with their animals every day.  I have an extremely hard time understanding why schools are incapable of doing the same for their students. Negative feedback makes no sense to a child other than I’m in trouble, but more than that, nothing a child does in the classroom should be considered wrong, they are in school to learn, to make errors in a controlled environment and learn how to turn a mistake around.
‘Fail’ should be removed from educators’ vocabulary- better yet all vocabulary. It’s an ugly word and it teaches nothing; except failure.