The enchanting side of feedback

Feedback provides objective information about how well we did, what we accomplished or how our result compares to standards. Feedback also tells a story about the nature of learning and how we play along.

We get told a dreadful story when the feedback we receive says:

  • You've now completed the fourth module
  • Your score on this section is 88%
  • You rank in the top 30% on this skill area
  • You made (3) mistakes in this unit

We find out our personal experience through the content-laden process does not count. We realize we are pictured as redundant pawns in the instructional system. We discover we are not respected as self-directed learners with unique questions, passions or purposes. Our ambition is imagined to be limited to higher scores and faster completion of modules. Our curiosity and creativity is presumed to be deficient or absent.

 We get told an enchanting story when the feedback we receive says:

  • You've worked through all four obstacles to perceiving this challenge accurately
  • You've proven you can discern the difference between these superficially similar things
  • You changed strategies in order to avoid that dead end and get to this location on your own
  • You found this new resource for your quest by changing your selective perception of the confusing evidence

We found out our experience through the process counts. We realized we are pictured as competent gamers who are making valuable decisions to move through the system. We discover we are respected as self-motivated learners. Our ambition is imagined to include: learning how to learn, to reformulate our questions and to revise search strategies.

When we learn all this from feedback, we become enchanted with possibilities. We anticipate how much we can learn on our own and how satisfying it will be. We are energized by the opportunities to get creative and adventurous. Our inquisitiveness is fired up by the seeming mysteries and contradictions in the terrain. We accept the story about how we learn.


  1. Properly enchanting feedback looks like this:

    You have completed the troll quest.

    You don't need to tell them what they've done. They know what they did. What's enchanting about the quote above is that it is shouted to every other player in the game:

    Labatt has solved the troll quest.

  2. Just picked up your blog from blogroll on Sean Fitzgeralds blog. I am loving your blog Tom and finding it a great read, each of the posts is particularly interesting to me - especially "what do you think about your situation"!

  3. Stephen
    Thanks for your input here!

    You're right the feedback can be that simple, if your assumption is right that the learner already knows the kind, magnitude and context of the accomplishment. In that case, more elaborate feedback is controlling and interfering with self-directed tours.

    The opposite assumption may be true. For instance if this was a game, the AI could scan your text entry for key words: ("don't need", "stop", "eliminate") and then transport the learner to strange location to puzzle through their escape by changing their outlook, strategies, etc. They would not necessarily know which of their attempts succeeded or how significant a change occurred when the escape was accomplished.