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What are you giving for Christmas?

Posted by: Joyce Matthews   |   1 Comments   |  Posted on: Dec 04, 2011

It’s that time of year again, when most people feel they have to rush around spending ridiculous amounts of money to buy presents for all and sundry. Are you feeling the festive spirit or are you feeling the pressure?

Can you remember what you gave your nearest and dearest last year? What did you buy for your child’s teacher? Was it last year you bought your friend that bottle of wine, or was it one of those silly gifts that are meant as a joke? Did you spend more than £5 on secret Santa even though you weren’t meant to? Did you buy something for your partner that was actually for the house because they didn’t really ‘need’ anything? And were vouchers the reliable standbys for all those people you buy for and you don’t really know what they want?

So how are you going to approach this year’s gifts? Will you use the same strategy as last year, and the year before, and the year before?

What if you could find a gift that would be appropriate for all your friends, relatives and colleagues, that wouldn’t cost a fortune and that could be of value both now and in the future?

What if you could find a gift that was personal to the receiver, made them feel good, was meaningful, encouraging and long lasting? What if you could find a gift that was so unusual and infrequently given that its scarcity made it more valuable than anything you can normally afford. And if it didn’t break the bank and you could get it without leaving your house, would that be even better? And that when receiving it your friends, relatives, pupils and colleagues would be emotionally moved, possibly to tears.

Would that solve all your ‘present’ problems?

The good news is………. that gift is within your reach and your budget. And with a little bit of thought and some careful searching you will be able to find it.

That gift is yours to give – if you choose to, and if the recipient is willing to receive it.

So what is this miracle gift?

Quite simply, its effective feedback.

Feedback can be described as “information given to the learner about their performance which then redirects or refocuses the learners’ actions”, and when given properly, is a gift. For which one of us isn’t a learner? (If you think you’ve learned everything you want to know then stop reading this now.) And just as you would when you receive a gift, you can choose what to do with it. Once you’ve received it, unwrap it and either cherish it, hold it dear to your heart and take it with you wherever you go, or put it away somewhere to bring out when you feel like using it and need a little reminder of yourself and the gift. Or alternatively you could put in the bin, or hide it away, never to be thought of again.

So how do you make feedback a gift? A little glitter and wrapping paper?

Feedback that is based on behavioural indicators i.e. what the individual did or said means that it is evidence based and focuses on the task or process rather than on the individual. This makes the basis of the feedback objective rather than subjective and judgemental.  Then focusing on the impact of this behaviour allows the learner to realise how what they did affects the outcome, and is therefore repeatable or able to be refined. To make a more profound effect on the learner, a skilled gifter (yes, I have just made up that word) of feedback can add in a feeling as well. E.g. “When you used the words ‘remember when’ I felt able to fit my experience into the scenario, and that made me feel happy that the learning was meaningful and personal to me.” Behavioural indicator + emotion = impact. Or, “When you passed the ball at chest height, it was the right height for me to catch, and that made me feel I was a competent and useful team player”. Behavioural indicator + impact = emotion.

And if you add in an invitation at the end of that equation, then it’s as if all your Christmases and Birthday parties have come at once.

Just like gifts, meaningful, positive and encouraging feedback gifted sparingly is of more value than abundant feedback given so regularly that it becomes meaningless. If you had Christmas everyday then presents would soon loose their value, excitement and relevance to you. And a well chosen gift that is unique to who you are and what you do, can boost your self esteem and deepen relationships. It’s also cost effective too.

Research by the Sutton Trust has shown that effective feedback is the most cost effective way of spending the Pupil Premium, and one study even estimates that “the impact of rapid feedback on learning is 124 time more cost effective that reducing class sizes!”

However as with all unique presents, they are not so easy to acquire – ever tried to buy some Myrrh and Frankincense? Developing ‘gifting feedback’ can require sustained professional development to raise awareness of the power of it and to improve practice.

So when you’re ready to give your pupils and staff the gift that will last a lifetime, give me a call – until then, there’s MasterCard for everything else.

One Comment to What are you giving for Christmas?

  1. Gregory Taylor
    December 22, 2012 6:34 pm

    Since the post is all about feedback, I feel like I can at least take the time to say that it’s a really nice idea! Probably a better way to offer one’s time than looking for a parking spot. (Though I do tend to take far too much time thinking about how I phrase things…) Either way, something to consider.

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