"Feedback"

[From Rick Marken (960726.1300)]

Bruce Gregory (960726.1440 EDT) --

When I tell you something, I do so with the intent that your
picture of the world change in some (small) way, but I have no
way of knowing what changes I have produced unless you give me
"feedback". That feedback might take the form of "I'm not sure
of what you are saying" or "you went too fast for me to follow
you at one point". Such "feedback" reports the state of the
small part of your picture of the world that I am trying to
change. It seems to me, therefore, that it is part of the loop
that I am trying to control. Yes? No?

Yes. You are doing things (telling me things) in order to control your
perception of my picture of the world. Your perception of my picture of the
world is based on what I say; that is, it is based on the "feedback" you get
from me in the form of statements like "I'm not sure of what you are
saying". This "feedback" is really a perception you are trying to control.
You act on the world -- which in this case consists of me, your student -- by
saying things like "cancel x from both sides of the eqiation". I perceive
your words and act on them (to control my own perceptions) as best I can. You
continue to vary your words until I am acting (or, better, controlling) in a
way that matches your reference for me having "learned the material".

I guess I would just prefer that we use the correct terminology (call a
controlled variable a "controlled variable" and a disturbance a "disturbance"
rather than calling both "feedback", for example) so that we can communicate
better AND so that we can understand the situation more clearly from a PCT
perspective. For example, once we know that the "feedback" from me is
actually the state of a variable that you are controlling, we can ask whether
this is the best apporach to teaching, from a PCT perspective. Based on your
description above, for example, it sounds like what one controls for when
teaching is visible actions (like whether or not I say "I'm not sure of what
you are saying"). It is certainly reasonable to try to control for actions
like this but I think PCT suggests a more powerful teaching strategy that is
best understood in terms of disturbances and controlled variables -- not
"feedback".

I think the goal of teaching should be to teach kids how to _control_, not
how to act. This means that you define the variable(s) that you want learners
to be able to control -- such as the state of algebra problems -- and then
teach them the means to control this variable -- through use of the "laws of
algebra". Then you continuously monitor the learner's progress towards
developing control by applying disturbances to the variable to be controlled -
- give the learner unsolved algebra problems, for example -- and see if the
learner can solve them. The goal here is not to control your perception of
the learner's actions -- how the laws of algebra are used to solve the
problem, for example. The goal is to see if the learner is able to control a
variable that you can control. In this case, teaching involves very little
control of variables that involve the learner; so the learner's actions
are not controlled variables. Teaching is aimed at helping direct (which, I
suppose, does involve some low-gain control) the learner's reorganization. Of
course, it's a LOT easier to say that teaching is about directing
reorganization that to know how to do it! But if we had has a few hundred
people studying teaching from a PCT perspective for the last 20 years we
probably would have a good idea of how to do it by now. Ah well.

Best

Rick

[From Bruce Gregory (960726.1655 EDT)]

(Rick Marken 960726.1300)

I guess I would just prefer that we use the correct terminology (call a
controlled variable a "controlled variable" and a disturbance a "disturbance"
rather than calling both "feedback", for example) so that we can communicate
better AND so that we can understand the situation more clearly from a PCT
perspective.

Count me in.

I think the goal of teaching should be to teach kids how to _control_, not
how to act. This means that you define the variable(s) that you want learners
to be able to control -- such as the state of algebra problems -- and then
teach them the means to control this variable -- through use of the "laws of
algebra". Then you continuously monitor the learner's progress towards
developing control by applying disturbances to the variable to be controlled -
- give the learner unsolved algebra problems, for example -- and see if the
learner can solve them.

I think I want to go even further than this. I want the learner
to be able to monitor his or her own progress, since this is
what control means. (I told a group of teachers a few weeks
ago that the feedback should come from the task, not from the
teacher. They liked the idea, but weren't sure they were up to
designing classes where this happens.) I also think the
learner needs to seek out unsolved problems and solve them
because they _want_ to learn to solve them and not because I
have posed them.

Teaching is aimed at helping direct (which, I
suppose, does involve some low-gain control) the learner's reorganization. Of
course, it's a LOT easier to say that teaching is about directing
reorganization that to know how to do it! But if we had has a few hundred
people studying teaching from a PCT perspective for the last 20 years we
probably would have a good idea of how to do it by now. Ah well.

The only way I know to "direct reorganization" is to keep
asking questions. When students can answer these to both our
satisfactions, reorganization has occurred! For the time being,
it seems that progress will have to depend on a few dozen
people studying teaching from a PCT perspective...

Regards,

Bruce