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Toronto Catholic District School Board

One of the current educational writers who has been promoted at the TCDSB level is John Hattie. His book Visible Learning for Teachers takes a look at various ways to help create optimal conditions for learning.
One of the things that Hattie refers to are mindframes necessary for success at school. One of these mindframes is “Teachers/Leaders inform all about the language of learning. “  Quite simply the goal is for parents to be familiar with the language of school and learning. Our hope is that you’ve already read about success criteria and descriptive feedback which are on our website.  In this first installment of talking about the language of learning, we’re going to delve a bit more into guiding principles and feedback.
A central theme to Hattie’s book are three questions:
Where am I going? How am I going there? Where to next? These questions really offer a blueprint for us as to how we can help students and ourselves succeed. There are several popular quotes that support this blueprint. A Japanese proverb indicates that “Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare”  Yogi Berra a famous baseball manager once said “if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll wind up someplace else.”  As a parent, you can help with this blueprint on a daily basis. It’s not just about the homework or lessons your child is learning but larger issues as well such as how are your children doing on a day to day basis and on a month to month basis. What interests your child and what steps are they taking to self direct their learning – a key element of the Catholic Graduate Expectations.
Below you will find guidelines that Hattie shares from V.J. Shute on how feedback can be used to enhance learning and therefore help achieve the guiding principles above. The overriding idea is that for students (and adults to succeed) we need to receive feedback on how we’re doing at moving towards the target goal. My own interpretations are in italics.
9 guidelines (we’ve included two that we think are most pertinent) for using feedback to enhance learning (Shute 2008)
  1. focus feedback on the task not the learner  similar to the idea that when a child misbehaves, it’s the behavior we focus on, not the child. When feedback is being given, let your child know how they did with the task, not what it says about them as a learner. Also remind them that it's ok to make mistakes. A key element of learning is to allow students to make mistakes. It's how we learn. Often time, if we're looking for perfection, we will not be encouraging risk in learning which is so key to progress.
  2. provide elaborate feedback (describing the what, how and why)   good job or great work doesn’t say much. On the other hand this feedback does, I like how you described your ideas with vivid detail but I think your writing needs more voice in it especially in terms of humour

    Please let us know if this intro to the language of learning was useful to you by emailing me at  Based on what we hear back, it will help our school improvement team direct next steps for the weeks and months ahead in our mutual learning journey. Thanks for reading.