Efficiency = Feedback / Cost

This is exactly the kind of formulation that drives me mad sometimes. But in a time where our budgets are imploding it’s better to give management a simple formula that encapsulates much of the debate than to merely cross your fingers that they get it. We’re kind of blessed to have an enlightened administration here at Keene State — my sense from the POD conference was that is not the norm.

The above is my “useful oversimplification”. What we struggle with as budgets collapse is the problem that feedback is both the most important part of the learning process and the most expensive part of the learning process. 

Seen outside the lens of innovation this would mean that cheaper education = worse education. But the truth is that we’ve invested most of our feedback efforts into fairly expensive  means of feedback — paying trained scientists and published literary theorists to lecture to classes with an occasional full class question thrown out there. 

Efficiency = Feedback / Cost means

  • LMS’s have to reduce the time spent on class management and provide instructors with ways to give quality feedback at little or no cost
  • More F2F time has to be used for feedback instead of content delivery
  • Students need tools to not only know how they did in a class, but how they compare to others and where they are weakest
  • Authentic learning and Community-based learning should be considered in areas where it provides a feedback-rich environment
  • In-class interaction should be structured in ways that provide feedback to all students (clickers, peer learning, structured discussion techniques)

And so on.

There’s other elements involved in learning, of course, but they are not as sensitive to cost-cutting. Reflection is key, for example, but costs little; student preparation for class is an an ongoing issue, but again, not one that is likely to be affected adversely by budget cuts. 

The good news, of course, is that a lot of the methods of providing low-cost feedback are also better methods — more humane, more student-centered, more social, more empowering, more conducive to a supportive campus environment.

And again, it is reductive. But would you rather someone else in your organization define efficiency?

Yeah, that’s what I thought. 

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