Falconry: Feedback loops, communication, and formative assessment

Reading from Step 1: The Art of Questioning of The Falconer: What We Wish We Had Learned in School.

By learning to insert feedback loops into our thought, questioning, and decision-making process, we increase the chance of staying on our desired path. Or, if the path needs to be modified, our midcourse corrections become less dramatic and disruptive. (Lichtman, 49 pag.)

This paragraph caused me to go back to a Mr. Sun quote from Step 0: Preparation.

But there are many more subtle barriers to communication as well, and if we cannot, or do not chose to overcome these barriers, we will encounter life decisions and try to solve problems and do a lot of falconing all by ourselves with little, if any, success. Even in the briefest of communications, people develop and share common models that allow them to communicate effectively.  If you don’t share the model, you can’t communicate. If you can’t communicate, you can’t teach, learn, lead, or follow.  (Lichtman, 32 pag.)

Mr Sun goes on to ask

So how do we find common models? (Lichtman, 32 pag.)

Finding common models of communication between all learners is critical to a community focused on everyone growing and learning together. In Chapter 1: Unpacking Thinking of Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners, the authors write

If we want to support students in learning, and we believe that learning is a product of thinking, then we need to be clear about what we are trying to support. (Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison, 5 pag.)

And, in Chapter 3: Grading Strategies that Support and Motivate Student Effort and Learning of Grading and Learning: Practices That Support Student Achievement, Susan Brookhart writes:

First, these teachers settled on the most important learning targets for grading. By learning targets, they meant standards phrased in student-friendly language so that students could use them in monitoring their own learning and, ultimately, understanding their grade.

One of these learning targets was ‘I can use decimals, fractions, and percent to solve a problem.’ The teachers listed statements for each proficiency level under that target and steps students might use to reach proficiency.

The [lowest] level was not failure but rather signified ‘I don’t get it yet, but I’m still working.’ (Brookhart, 30 pag.)

Yet is such a powerful word. I just love using yet to communicate support and issue subtle challenges.  Yet, used correctly, sends the message that I (you) will learn this.  I believe in you, and you believe in me.

As a community, we have started the challenging work of writing commonly agreed upon essential learnings for our student-learners.  Now that we are on a path of shared models of communication, we are able to develop feedback loops and formative assessments for student-learners to use to monitor their learning as well as empower learners to ask more questions.

What if we build common formative assessments that communicate how to level up, ask targeted questions, and motivate learning?

I agree that we must work to clearly communicate the intended, essential outcomes for learners. While our methods of learning and leading do not have to be identical, the core learning outcomes should be common for learners. In other words, we should have a guaranteed curriculum.

I assume that groups working together as teams have, or are on a path to, common models of communication between themselves and are making strides to share these with student-learners and parents of their students.

I argue with the statement that we already have this in place.  I don’t think this work is ever done.  When we have commonly agreed upon “I can…” statements, we need rubrics or descriptions of what it means to be on target, how to reach a target, and where to go if you are already at the target level.

I aspire to work collaboratively in teams to teach, learn, lead, and follow by asking questions to develop common models to communicate effectively.  I aspire to serve our learners by developing, implementing, and using stronger feedback loops.  I aspire to help learners level up.

I aspire to listen more, question more, and learn more.

I aspire to become a falconer.


Brookhart, Susan M. Grading and Learning: Practices That Support Student Achievement. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree, 2011. Print.

Lichtman, Grant, and Sunzi. The Falconer: What We Wish We Had Learned in School. New York: IUniverse, 2008. Print.

Ritchhart, Ron, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison. Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2011. Print.

[Cross posted on Flourish.]

One thought on “Falconry: Feedback loops, communication, and formative assessment”

  1. Jill, I agree with all of the ideas in this post. As we begin the process of (re)aligning curriculum in my own school, I hope we will honor and commit to all layers of the work to move towards the “guaranteed curriculum” (I assume) we want and need for learners. I especially appreciate your comment about the power of the word ‘yet.” Such a small word with such enormous implications… suggesting a belief in the learner, in the inevitability of progress-with-perseverance, implying the growth mindset we need for ourselves and our learners. I have a vision of a “not yet” section of the learner “dashboard,” with feedback to support ongoing effort and progress and “bright spot badges” along the way 🙂


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