Feedback Loops for Better Schools

By Kevin Bushweller — October 17, 2011 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print
Kevin Bushweller

I recently read and then reread a story in Wired magazine titled “Harnessing the Power of Feedback Loops,” which is essentially about how to use technology to provide people with immediate feedback about their behavior or performance that prompts them to take positive action.

The story begins in a school district having chronic problems with drivers speeding through school zones and hitting walkers and cyclists. Local officials tried several tactics but were unsuccessful in curbing the safety problem until they installed driver-feedback signs with digital displays telling motorists how fast they were driving. The approach worked. The average speed of drivers dropped, as did the number of cars hitting walkers or cyclists. It was a simple solution to a difficult problem.

Yet the feedback-loop approach to solving problems is far from commonplace in society, especially in K-12 education. Sure, schools are collecting tons of data, but it is the rare school district that has figured how to collect data and provide quality, real-time feedback that pushes administrators, teachers, and students toward better behaviors and performance on a daily basis. (The Wired article, unfortunately, does not address K-12 student learning.)

We’ve written about this concept in different ways in the past. What we’ve found in our reporting is that although many schools embrace the idea of feedback loops, most don’t have a clue about how to put such a concept into action. So they take no action at all.

Yet there are a handful of exceptions that appear to be figuring out how to do it. In this issue of Digital Directions, Staff Writer Ian Quillen writes about one of those exceptions, the Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina. It has engineered a districtwide “digital conversion” that emphasizes the use of digital tools for learning and constant performance feedback, combined with an initiative for teachers to get to know their students better.

Test scores are improving in Mooresville, and the district is attracting monthly visits from education leaders across the country who are looking for feedback on their own plans for how to use digital tools and human resources to prompt administrators, teachers, and students to take actions leading to better behavior and higher performance.

A version of this article appeared in the October 19, 2011 edition of Digital Directions as Feedback Loops for Better Schools


Student Well-Being Webinar After-School Learning Top Priority: Academics or Fun?
Join our expert panel to discuss how after-school programs and schools can work together to help students recover from pandemic-related learning loss.
Budget & Finance Webinar Leverage New Funding Sources with Data-Informed Practices
Address the whole child using data-informed practices, gain valuable insights, and learn strategies that can benefit your district.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Classroom Technology Webinar
ChatGPT & Education: 8 Ways AI Improves Student Outcomes
Revolutionize student success! Don't miss our expert-led webinar demonstrating practical ways AI tools will elevate learning experiences.
Content provided by Inzata

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Accountability Education Secretary: Standardized Tests Should No Longer Be a 'Hammer'
But states won't ease accountability requirements until federal law tells them to do so, policy experts say.
5 min read
Close up of a student holding pencil and writing the answer on a bubble sheet assessment test with blurred students at their desks in the background
Accountability Timeline: How Federal School Accountability Has Waxed and Waned
From its origins in the 1990s to the most-recent tack, see how the federal approach to accountability has shifted.
4 min read
President George W. Bush, left, participates in the swearing-in ceremony for the Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, center, at the U.S. Dept. of Education on Jan. 31, 2005 in Washington. On the far right holding a bible is her husband Robert Spellings.
President George W. Bush, left, participates in the swearing-in ceremony for the Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, center, at the U.S. Dept. of Education on Jan. 31, 2005 in Washington. On the far right holding a bible is her husband Robert Spellings.
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Accountability School Accountability Is Restarting After a Two-Year Pause. Here's What That Means
For a moment, the COVID-19 pandemic succeeded in doing what periodic protests about school accountability couldn't: Halting it.
10 min read
Illustration of a gauge.
Accountability Opinion Let's Take a Holistic Approach to Judging Schools
Parents wouldn't judge their kids based on a single factor. So, says Ron Berger of EL Education, why must schools use a lone test score?
8 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."