Thursday, January 3, 2013

Ego vs. Task.... That is the Question!

Our district has two days of Professional Learning this week prior to students coming back on Monday. We chose to bring a lot of our learning from over the last year or so together by looking at a unit plan, aligning our essential learnings (we call them Learning Targets), planning Formative Assessments based upon the Learning Targets, then planning activities based upon the results of the Formative Assessments.

I felt it went great! However, the purpose of my blogging today isn't to celebrate a great day of learning with our staff, but rather ask for some help on a question/discussion we had today. We watched this video (LINK) The purpose of the video was to talk about planning for the types of feedback to give students from the Formative Assessments.

In the video, Dylan Wiliam talks about Ego involving vs Task involving. This was concerning to our staff. They understand that "Good Job" or a star or check mark is not good feedback. However, the question came up... "If a student got it right, how do you tell them that?" Does, "Good start, but how could you expand your thoughts on (item XYZ)" constitute Task involving or Ego involving feedback? So I ask, what do you think?


  1. Personally, I consider that Task Involving feedback. With college students I use a variation... "Good thinking on this point/article/argument. How might you extend that argument even more?"

  2. What I've found is that always asking myself, "Can I be more specific?" helps me to be more task involving.

    So, "Good start, but how could..." turns into feedback that explicitly states what the "Good start" is. "Your introduction drew me in by starting with dialogue. I got a bit lost in the middle of your story, though, and I'm thinking it's because the conflict wasn't clear. How do you think you could make it more clear to the reader?"

    It praises the student for what they did well, but it's not empty praise. It lets them know exactly what they did so they can (hopefully) internalize that feedback to repeat what they did well in the future in new situations. "Ah, it was because I started with dialogue that my introduction worked."

  3. The work that Wiliam is talking about (without naming) comes primarily from Ruth Butler in the 1980s, some of which I summarized at If I remember from Butler's article correctly, some of the task-involving feedback was for a word-creation activity and was limited to either something like "You created a lot of words, but not many long ones" or "You created some long words, but not very many words." It's not the most helpful feedback students might get, but it gave the researchers a controlled feedback pattern that included (a) something the student did right and (b) something the student could have done better.

    Butler herself was adapting prior work by Nicholls and described task vs. ego like this:

    Task involvement: Activities are inherently satisfying and individuals are concerned with developing mastery to the task or prior performance.

    Ego involvement: Attention is focused on ability compared to the performance of others.

    So if a student gets something right, Butler believed a comment about the skill exhibited on the task would be task-involving, while a grade would promote ego involvement.