The feedback factor

Of late, there’s been a renewed interest among somanauts — explorers of the somatic domain — in Buckminster Fuller’s concept of tensegrity. Moving beyond inert physical structures to propose a 21st-century take on anatomy, the biotensegrity model asks us to rethink connective tissue’s role in functional integrity.  

Lately, I’ve been thinking about another idea that Bucky proposed, back in the early 1960s, one that’s related to education. Long before the internet and cell phones, Fuller realized that remote control of cable television does more than making it possible for the user to select which TV shows to watch. Pressing a button on the remote goes from simply selecting a program to being a way to register a response, thereby transforming the user from a passive consumer into an active agent. Bucky took this realization one step further, imagining the direct application in education. (It should also be noted, given what’s happening in US politics these days, that he even suggested this could be used to change the nature of voting and elections.)

While it’s fascinating how Fuller foresaw the advent of on-demand learning, I’ve been thinking about another aspect of his insight, namely the feedback factor: how technology affords the student the possibility of interacting with the teacher. This shifts the emphasis from providing information to facilitating the acquisition of skills and abilities. After all, it’s one thing to teach, that is to say, to make educational materials available; it’s another to help students learn. 

Being able to receive the students’ responses makes it possible for the teacher to get feedback about how they’re learning and, even more importantly, what it means to them. Tuning into how students are grappling with the curriculum takes the teacher from merely being a performer who delivers content to being someone engaged in the nitty-gritty process of learning. 

In the past year of teaching classes online, I find myself increasingly interested in — and thrilled by — the possibility of using technology to incorporate feedback from the students in my courses. Distance learning means finding new ways of engaging with the participants and gathering the information I used to get by talking with students, during breaks or after class, or working with them individually or in small groups.

In a recent blog, I wrote using an online poll of the participants in a class to find out if a hunch I had was correct. That way, I could venture a guess and find out if I was on the right track.

Having regular meet ups is one way I incorporate students’ experiences into my current Awareness Through Movement classes, The Bodywise Project. During these sessions, I can find out how the lessons are landing with the students, and they get answers to their questions. My focus is on how they can make the lessons relevant and beneficial. 

Teaching MASTERING THE METHOD, my postgraduate program for teachers interested in improving their abilities to give individual lessons — online and in-person — was another matter. Teaching this course over the past twenty or so years, I learned that what happens when the participants are working with each other in small groups is most significant. Not only do they learn from and with each other during these moments, but when I can observe how they’re doing, respond to questions, acknowledge progress and offer personal coaching. 

How can we make this kind of learning possible when we’re meeting in a virtual classroom? 

While the hands-on aspect is missing, the attendees discover the advantages of working with each other in breakout groups over video. Doing collaborative exercises in dyads or trios becomes a way to develop crucial observational, listening, and interactive skills.  

It turns out that it’s also possible for the participants to work with someone in their space. I can observe the group, answer questions that come up, and offer suggestions. They can pair up with someone else and take turns coaching each other. It’s also possible to set up each connection as an individual group, meaning that I — and, when it’s a large group, other faculty members — can visit each person and offer individual (and private) support.

Because you don’t have to travel to meet online, it’s incredibly easy to follow-up on the initial five-day seminar. After everyone’s had a chance to practice what they’ve learned, we can get back together to review and refine tactics and techniques. Indeed, we do so once a month for each of the three months after each MASTERING THE METHOD (MTM) module, which provides a precious opportunity to delve deeper into fundamental details while, at the same time, getting a better overview of the lesson’s strategies and applications. 

Teaching from home in teacher training programs worldwide, I found out that even when we’re not in the same place, it’s entirely possible to constructively and effectively improve how you work with someone. All those years of working closely with the folks in these courses taught me so much about the ways in which we learn over time, the obstacles we encounter along the way, and how to use them to figure out what we need to learn. 

To provide this kind of tutelage for colleagues enrolled in MTM, I offer individual FI tutorials. During these sessions, you give the featured FI, or work on sections of it, over Zoom or, if you prefer, we can review a video of you giving the lesson. Either way, I will observe, answer your questions, and provide feedback and suggestions in real-time. The most important thing is that we start with you setting the agenda according to what you want to learn.

Here’s a peek at what happened during one such session:

If you would like to learn more, we made a 21-minute summary of the entire session hour and twenty minute tutorial session. This overview features some of the highlights of what happened during the session, including my answer to the question about the difference between physical therapy and Moshe’s method.

To view the video, please sign up below:

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One of the most surprising aspects of the move to online learning is that rather than limiting the scope of Functional Integration® lessons, not being able to touch expanded our work. During an individual online session, the teacher uses the student’s feedback regarding how they move and what they say to personalize the lesson to their specific questions, challenges, and needs. Instead of feeling like the teacher is doing something “to” them, students get to experience their ability to help themselves. Indeed, online Feldenkrais lessons are ideal for students who want to learn to work on themselves.

Learning to give meaningful, memorable online lessons is a central aspect of BREATHING BETTER, the upcoming cycle of MASTERING THE METHOD. Early registration ends at midnight Pacific time on Tuesday, 9 March 2021. For more information and to sign up, please click here.

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  1. Thanks Larry
    Finally coming back to life.
    A question I’m noticing that more Feldenkrais practioners are looking at fascia and one person is even offering classes on fascia and Feldenkrais. Doesn’t this dalute Feldenkrais.