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In Episode 254 of Class Dismissed, Social psychologist Camilla Griffiths from Stanford University discusses the common practice among educators of quickly correcting students’ mistakes. She argues that this approach, while efficient, may deny students the opportunity to learn, grow, and demonstrate their ability to overcome challenges. 

Griffiths and her colleagues studied middle- and high-school teachers’ feedback, focusing on whether students were passive recipients or had agency in responding to comments. In other words, was the feedback agentic or directive?

Agentic feedback and directive feedback represent contrasting approaches to how educators provide input to students. Let’s break down the key differences between the two:

    • Agentic Feedback: This approach empowers students to participate in learning actively. Instead of directly correcting errors or providing solutions, agentic feedback encourages students to revise their work independently. It aims to make students partners in the revision process, fostering a sense of control and freedom.
    • Directive Feedback: In contrast, directive feedback involves correcting mistakes, prescribing solutions, or rewriting portions of a student’s work. It tends to be more explicit and prescriptive, guiding students on what needs to be corrected or changed without involving them in decision-making.

Griffiths provides examples comparing directive feedback (corrections) to agentic feedback (empowering students to improve):

  • Directive: Correcting spelling errors.
  • Agentic: Asking the student to revise an essay with multiple spelling errors.
  • Directive: Rewriting a student’s topic and transition sentences.
  • Agentic: Leaving a note asking the student to rework a topic sentence.

In this episode of Class Dismissed, Griffiths explains how students responded to the different types of feedback. She concludes that agentic feedback, though not revolutionary, utilizes existing skills like giving advice, asking questions, and providing guidance. The research highlights its effectiveness in fostering self-sufficiency and instilling belief in individuals’ potential to learn, applicable in educational settings and workplaces.

Listen to Episode 254 of Class Dismissed on Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast app to hear our entire conversation with Griffiths.

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