The Oreo Sandwich

Nothing feeds desire than obstacles placed on its way.

I feel like a phony. I’ve been a Language Specialist for a number of years now, and quite recently have taken on a new role as Project Manager. Yet I must admit that the art of giving feedback still baffles me. I’m  a no-nonsense, no BS, say-it-as-it-is type of person that tends to resonate into how I am as a trainer.

I understand the essence of providing feedback and have seen for myself how students lap up and proactively seek comment, suggestion, consult, advice from me, no matter how small or insignificant, in order to perform optimally and learn more. I’ve witnessed how their faces light up and they have more pep in their step each time they get a commendation from a customer. Effective feedback is to students as heroin is to junkies is how I like to illustrate it. And with each commendation, they seem more and more like Oliver Twist asking for seconds.

Please, Sir, can I hace some more.
Please, Sir, can I hace some more.

But I’ve always struggled on how to start and deliver feedback. My previous manager favored and preferred that we use the Sandwich Method. Positive-Negative-Positive. Personally, I always find myself grasping for  words, and sometimes even running out of positive comments.

The logic behind the Oreo Method seems solid. By cushioning the blow, you’re engaging the pre-frontal cortex of the brain; negative feedback may just get stuck in the primitive amphibian brain and put the student in a defensive mode. On the other hand, it seems to go against the Theory of Latency. The tendency is that the filling, the key message may get completely lost in the fluff. As a result, change might not be forthcoming.

Yet, as I focus on the how of providing feedback and meaningful assessments, process thoughts and churn out papers, assignments and journal entries in completion of the final requirements for my courses, a moment of lapsed judgment and thoughtlessness reminded me that the when is just as important as the how, that theory and head knowledge is only secondary to the heart.

Sometimes I forget my humanity makes me subjective and prone to outbursts and lapses in impulse control. It is at that point when all that hard work, well-meaning intentions and book smarts get thrown out the window. In the past few weeks, I’ve been too absorbed in assessment types, arguably the meat of any instructional design. In the blurry of it all, I’ve missed that raw emotional center of the learning process.

I’ve realized that feedback is not just about timeliness but also timing, and that the timing is everything. I’ve realized that my over-zealousness to improve performance has turned me into a megatron-dominatrix with a whip in one hand. I’ve learned, albeit the hard way, that one  should consider whether s/he is in the right condition to provide feedback. Sometimes, teachers, in their dedicated passion or perhaps merely out of sheer exhaustion, have a tendency to zero in on inaccuracies and should be reminded to cool off before facing a student to provide feedback.

After all, a big cat ready to pounce on any unsuspecting victim is not the picture we want to leave our learners with.


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