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The Conversational Framework needs teachers. More specifically it needs them to deliver useful feedback. The question that I asked last time was, in effect, what’s so special about teachers’ feedback.

In order to answer that, I’m going to try and catalogue the types of feedback.

Type 1: Opinion

  • Examples: “I like that”. “That is horrible”. “It lacks something.”

Whether delivered by teachers or students these statements are generally useless. At an emotional level, it is nice to hear that someone likes something that you do – particularly if you respect the person saying it – but it doesn’t give you much else to go on. Worse, it can encourage you to become dependent on someone else’s good favour.

Type 2: Clarifying

  • Examples: “Why did you do that?” “What would you do differently next time?” “What were your influences?”

This type of questions can help a student to reflect on their work without implying a direction. They also help the questioner understand the otherwise implicit aims and processes involved in its creation. They can also feel a bit generic (i.e. can be asked of anyone at any time).

Type 3: Referential

  • Examples: “Your work reminds me of…”. “Have you seen….?”

This type of feedback helps to place the work in a critical or historical context, or provides a valuable stockpile of references for the student to investigate at a later date. It can also be hugely annoying to hear (i.e. gives the impression that your work is unoriginal or a pale imitation of something better).

Type 4: Thread-pulling

This is the type of feedback that I find hardest to define, but is perhaps is the most important. It takes as it’s starting point that any presentation of work leaves a number of figurative threads dangling. The role of the teacher is to identify what those threads might be and begin to tug at them. In this case the teacher is helping the student be asking specific questions that relate to both the conceptual foundations of the work and the manner in which it has been developed.

None of these types are exclusive to either a teacher or a student. However, I think it more likely that teachers  – by virtue of their expertise or experience – would have an informed position on which to give feedback of types 3 and 4. If so, this is the dialogue that Laurillard’s framework depends on.

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