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Marc Gold: Feedback Specific Issues

Marc Gold

Marc Gold began his career as a special education teacher in Los Angeles. It was there that he formulated a values based systematic training approach, "Try Another Way." This approach was based on a few fundamental beliefs: Everyone can learn but we have to figure out how to teach; students with developmental disabilities have much more potential than anyone realizes; and all people with disabilities should have the opportunity to decide how to live their lives. These video segments demonstrate his philosophy, and the respect and value he placed on the abilities of each of his students.

Feedback: Specific Issues

Interesting? How did he do that? Here's how-when all the planning is done, all the materials are arranged, and you begin the intimate task of training what goes on moment by moment requires instantaneous decisions, and a close interaction between the trainer's judgment and available technology.

The two people you've seen in the simulator are part of an experimental program utilizing this technology. They're learning component skills for driving and someday might be on the road. 

The issues that we're going to discuss here have to do with a set of rules that should be sitting on the shelf of your mind ready to go out on the road. Ready to be brought into play on a second by second basis.

It's important to recognize that these rules are very nice where they can be used. But you'll see as we go through them each one is totally useless in some circumstances and very valuable in others. 

There are no rules for using these rules.  You've heard me say that before; my repetition is intentional. 

The first rule is the rule of self-correction. Self-correction means that the learner is operating on internal feedback. He recognizes that an error has been made, and corrects it himself. This is really the last stage before correctness. The learner didn't have enough information to do it right the first time, but having made an error has enough information in his head to recognize that it's been made, and to correct it.

The first part of the rule of self correction says,

Allow self correction only when you think more will be learned from actually making the error than from the trainer catching it in progress.

What we're really talking about here is timing.  A trainer in a training situation makes many split second decisions.

The second part of the rule says, When you do not feel that self-correction is going to be helpful, and that is that the person is going to be able recognize that he made an error, try to provide feedback after the decision has been made but before it has been acted upon. With many tasks this of course can not be done. With most verbal tasks for example you have to wait until the person's response gets out of their mouth before you can do something about it. 

If you say how much is two times two the person says five you don't know what it's going to be, until it gets out there. You can't stop it; it has to lay out there. So with some things you can't use that at all. 

However with many self help tasks and other manual tasks too it is obvious when a person has made a decision and is about to move on that decision. 

In the early stages of learning I think it's often better to correct the error as you see it about to be made so as to keep the cycle fairly constant. That is so that you don't have to allow a wrong set of moves to occur and then undo the mistake bring them back and break up the correct flow of the movement through the task. Okay.

The third part of the rule says, in those cases where you're teaching a very complex manual skill to someone who finds it very difficult to learn, and of course I'm qualifying this a lot now, manually direct the person put the person through the entire task or the part of the task being learned several times so as to provide some basis of experience for responding to your later correction. That's not a very clean part of the rule but the point is important. 

By bringing the persons hands through an entire sequence of events several times, a person that you expect is going to be really difficult to train, you're putting some basis inside so that when you later begin to pull back as a trainer they have, hopefully, something sitting in there to draw upon to know what their mistakes were.

The next rule is the rule of Non-interference. The rule of non-interference says when you have someone attending where you want him to attend find a way of providing feedback that does not require him to stop attending.

Let's pretend that I was a newsman reporting the evening news, and what you were seeing was a trainer and a learner working together in the typical fashion. Here's what I might say to you as the newscaster standing off in the distance okay. Notice that the trainer and the learner are working together and that the learner is attending to the task. The trainer has now asked the learner to stop attending to the task and attend to the trainer so that the trainer can tell the learner how happy he was that he was attending to the training task. 

Now the learner is attending to the trainer, the trainer has now said stop attending to me go back to attending to the task so that as soon as you do I can tell you to stop attending to the task to attend to me so that I can tell you how nice it was that you were attending. 

Now some of you may be laughing at that but when you look at your own teaching you know exactly what I am talking about. We take a person's attention and we flop it back and forth and in the meantime we say the person has a short attention span or that he's distracted easily and yet we're the person that's the source of the whole thing. It makes no sense for a learner to have to utilize the same systems that he's using to acquire information to find out if he is or is not learning.

If you're teaching a child articulation for speech for example, don't let him know how happy you are by giving him something to eat. It will clog him all up. Okay

The next rule is the rule of Inconspicuous Feedback. It says,

When you must interfere with a behavior that you believe is meant to be attention-getting; interfere in a way that appears unintentional.

Let me show you what I mean.

You guys want to come on in here, please. This is Steve Gold and Joe Law. A couple of people who happen to be on the set today and I've asked them to give me some assistance. Okay will you guys sit down here.

Let's say that you have typical situation where in a classroom or in a workshop or something you've got two people or a group of people that are supposed to be working together and you happen to have one of them, in this case I'll pick on this one, who is really a pain okay and he does all kinds of terrible things and he's bothering and making noises, and you have an idea that the reason he does that is because he wants your attention. You're hooked and so you're in a really funny situation here because here he is maybe punching although in this case if he punched him I don't think that would be a very good idea okay.

But let's say that he's bothering people and doing things and you the trainer or the person that's a supervisor saying I better get in there but if I get in there to stop him he's going to know that I got there because he wanted me over there.

Like if I say to the person, "Don't do that, or stop it or if you do this I'm going to throw you out of here" or something like that he's got you. Because he's sitting there saying even though you may have this big voice you know; he's saying to himself, "I caused him to come over here". The issue is how can I get over there? I have to stop what's going on because it's not good for him it's not good for the other people but I don't want him to know that he's got control of me whenever he wants. 

So I come walking on over here alright, and here he is talking and making noise and things like that and I walk over and I say, "Very very nice I really like the work that you're doing, this is very fine", in the meantime although I'm not getting that reaction now of course, he's sitting over here kind of puzzled, by the way don't do this to a biter okay? It's just not healthy. Okay?

But you do this you have stopped for whatever reason you have temporarily stopped all that behavior. There's another thing going on, he's sitting here saying to himself, "How come that guy's getting all the attention? Why is he getting it when I'm the one wanted it, and what's he doing over here? It must not have been because I was making all that noise." 

That's the first half. The first half is to stop it, by doing something that he can't identify as you got over here because of him.

The second part of it is now, okay go ahead and work and things like that you know, as you come back now the second part of how you use that rule is, is to come back over and say, even though he's not doing anything he's sitting there stunned all right? You say, "I'm glad to see you're very quiet" okay now he's sitting there saying you're kidding you know okay? Fine go on ahead to work.  It's very important not to simply stop it and go away. If this guy was trying to get your attention it's reasonable to assume he must have needed some attention. Give him a little but not in a way that he can say, "I got him". Alright? That's what that rule has to say.

The last rule to be covered here is the Rule of Diminishing Feedback. The first part of the rule says each time you correct an error that has been made before provide enough information to correct the error but less information than last time.

Let's look at this part of the rule in action.

That cue isn't working let's try something more powerful. Placing his hands on the key and doing all of it is a lot more powerful.

Now let's try something that's not as much power as before. A point and you've got it.

The second part of the rule of diminishing feedback says each time you change the feedback the strength of the feedback reduces. But if it is different information you are adding more and more pieces of smaller and smaller size.

The third part of the rule says, if you have a prompt that works don't use it again. What does it mean to have a prompt that works? If the person is doing something incorrect and you provide a prompt you give some assistance you provide some feedback which gets him to do it. Gets him to do it correctly then the prompt works. Or did it? If he makes the same mistake the next time around, then the prompt worked in the sense of getting him to correct the mistake, but not in the sense of getting him to learn not to make the mistake. This third part of the rule says that it's not good enough when a prompt helps a person to do it correctly. The prompt must bring the person to the point of doing it correctly in the absence of the prompt. So if you have one that works don't use it again.

Now I don't really mean don't use it again anytime, but if you use something a couple of times that's okay. But you shouldn't keep doing something over and over again in the hope that the learner will eventually understand what you're doing. You have to fade out the strength of the information that you're giving them. Okay.

After you've done all of your task analysis planning and you're in the moment by moment the intimate situation with the learner look to these rules for some ideas and some feelings for being as effective as possible. They're intended to provide you with some of the power with a lot of the power that you need right there on the spot after you've had all the planning and everything else. 

For each of these rules, and I'm saying it again, there are lots of places where they don't help, for other places boy are they nice to have sitting there to pull out and say right now you know I think I need the Rule of Diminishing Feedback or this or the other. They're there for immediate and effective use.

The one rule we haven't discussed is the Rule of Reinforcement. We'll cover that and Influence in the next film.

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This project was supported, in part by grant number 2001MNSCDD-03, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects with government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official ACL policy.

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