Keys to Success

Feedforward and Positive Self-Review

Our programs emphasize feedforward rather than feedback, as it is more effective in teaching and learning. Feedforward illustrates or indicates future behavior or a path to a desirable goal.

A common example of feedforward is a video of a child reading fluently—a passage from a book that he or she actually would read haltingly, requiring quite a bit of help in some of the words. This type of example might be achieved by the child "echoing" one phrase at a time, and video editing used to put all the phrases together as fluent speech. This method works well for physical and motor skills as well.

For social and daily living skills, video feedforward is best achieved with planning and scripting as a movie director would do. For example, a screen image of a job interview could be made first by deciding on the main elements (making a phone call, delivering an application to the office, greeting the manager and stating interest in the job, etc.). Then each scene is filmed as a role play.

Feedforward is a general strategy, not just for use with video. For example, tutors in our ACE Reading family of programs are taught not to correct errors when they occur. Most instructional programs insist immediate feedback to correct errors is essential, but we disagree because our students/clients make many errors. So it’s very discouraging and would lead to them giving up. Instead, our tutors note the errors (discreetly) and select one or two of the most important. Later they say, “Let’s look through the book and find something.” Suppose a child always reads “there” for “then.” The tutor finds “then” and says, “See that word; it says ‘then’ ‘then.’ You say it, .” The child says “then!” and the tutor says, “Right! You got it. Now see if you can find one.” So they find more “thens” together, the child reads them correctly and has a positive, feedforward experience.

A related idea is Positive Self-Review. PSR refers to experiences of observing or paying attention to doing something well. It is useful to teaching and learning, to arrange PSR for rarely exhibited or newly learned skills. For example, a boy with Asperger’s syndrome may very seldom initiate a conversation, and have to be shown how to give up a topic he has talked about too much. These events are too rare to be praised or reinforced effectively. Much better to capture examples on video, to be watched frequently, for the behavior to become established and consistent.

References with further explanations and examples include:

See Basso and Belardinelli (2006) for review of the feedforward concept across many sciences. For an historical review point, see the 1991 chapter “Feedforward and Self Modeling” posted elsewhere on this Web site.

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