Saturday, January 25, 2014

Runner's Analogy: Clear Targets + Effective Feedback

Good Instruction=Clear Targets + Effective Feedback

The Runner's Analogy

Scenario 1-Traditional Grading Methods

You begin practicing to run a half marathon by running.  Only you don't know how long the race is going to be.  So you take off sprinting.  Then, the coach stops you and says you got an "A."  You know that means that you have done a good job, so you start sprinting again.  Then, you are stopped again.  Again, you are given an "A."  This continues but towards the end of the practice half marathon, you are getting slower and slower.  You are exhausted.  You can't run anymore.  You start walking.  Fortunately, the race is getting harder for everyone.  Everybody started too fast.  So, the times aren't very good but the coach can't fail everybody.  He gives you A's and B's.  You are sitting with a B+ average.  Then the coach tells you, if you can do a vertical jump of 20 inches, I will give you bonus points.  So you do it.  Now you are up to an A.  You didn't improve and actually got worse, but you met your goal. You've completed what you were supposed to do, you've checked off the marks along the way, and you grabbed some extra points at the end to ensure you got the grade you wanted.  When it is time to run an entire race, you really don't know what you are doing.  You learned that you probably shouldn't run so fast at the beginning but in terms of form, you know nothing new.  So when the race comes, you do your best, which lucky for you, is pretty much as good as the others in your class.

Scenario 2-Clear Targets + Effective Feedback (assessed by a specific criteria)

The coach tells you that you will be running 13.1 miles.  As you begin running, the coach tells you to "look straight ahead."  "Your head is down, look 10 feet in front of you."  As you start to tighten up, the coach tells you to "relax your shoulders and chest" and "Lead with your hips."  You make these adjustments and make improvements throughout the practice.  These are also things that you will now be able to relate to the next time you are running without a coach next to you.  During practice, you make improvements to get better for the actual race.  You continue to practice over several days and continue to get feedback.  The race becomes the assessment.  The practice helped you improve.  It doesn't count for you or against you.  You will be judged solely on your performance during the race.

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