The Last Lecture

The Last Lecture

Teaching, Learning, and Feedback Loops Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Dreams in Reality Theme Icon
Teaching, Learning, and Feedback Loops Theme Icon
Obstacles as Opportunities Theme Icon
Attitude and Positive Behavior Theme Icon
Entitlement vs. Earning Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Last Lecture, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Teaching, Learning, and Feedback Loops Theme Icon

As a professor, Randy believes in the importance of teaching and learning. For him, one of the most effective ways of teaching is by putting in place feedback loops, which are mechanisms by which lessons can amplify and perpetuate themselves beyond the scope of Randy’s literal teaching.

Randy gives a number of examples of feedback loops in his life and what he learned from them. Perhaps the most striking is from his time at Brown, when his mentor, Professor Andy Van Dam, told Randy that it’s a shame that people perceive Randy as being so arrogant, because it’s going to limit what he’s able to accomplish. Randy was shocked and hurt by this information, but he didn’t hide from it or dismiss it: he changed his behavior and people began to perceive him differently. In each instance of feedback loops in The Last Lecture, Randy describes a mentor providing honest feedback, which leads to behavioral change, and then to the recipient of the feedback re-gifting the lesson to others who need it.

This last point is essential to the concept of the feedback loop: feedback is not simply a “loop” between teacher and student—a successful feedback loop must create an infinite loop that travels beyond the original teacher/student relationship. For instance, Randy tells a story about a time when his sister lectured her kids about not messing up Randy’s new convertible before he took them out for a ride. In order to teach his niece and nephew that people are more valuable than things, Randy poured a can of coke right onto the new seats. When Randy’s nephew later threw up on the seat, he didn’t feel guilty about it. The story is humorous, of course, but Randy extends it: when he finds out he’s dying, Randy asks his niece and nephew to make sure they impart this same lesson to his own children. Those who receive feedback become those who give feedback, and so that feedback can progress, improve, and become more refined through time. If done properly, the cycle of teaching and learning never ends, and each generation keeps improving upon the last.

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Teaching, Learning, and Feedback Loops Quotes in The Last Lecture

Below you will find the important quotes in The Last Lecture related to the theme of Teaching, Learning, and Feedback Loops.
Introduction Quotes

Under the ruse of giving an academic lecture, I was trying to put myself in a bottle that would one day wash up on the beach for my children.

Related Characters: Randy Pausch (speaker), Dylan, Logan, Chloe
Related Symbols: The Head Fake
Page Number: xiv
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 1 Quotes

…all of the things I loved were rooted in the dreams and goals I had as a child… despite the cancer, I truly believed I was a lucky man because I had lived out these dreams. And I had lived out my dreams, in great measure, because of things I was taught by all sorts of extraordinary people along the way. If I was able to tell my story with passion, I felt, my lecture might help others find a path to fulfilling their own dreams.

Related Characters: Randy Pausch (speaker)
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 6 Quotes

Have something to bring to the table, because that will make you more welcome.

Related Characters: Randy Pausch (speaker)
Related Symbols: Brick Walls
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 7 Quotes

…even though I did not reach the National Football League, I sometimes think I got more from pursuing that dream, and not accomplishing it, than I did from many of the ones I did accomplish.

Related Characters: Randy Pausch (speaker), Coach Jim Graham
Related Symbols: The Head Fake
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

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“When you’re screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore, that means they’ve given up on you.”

Related Characters: Assistant Coach (speaker), Randy Pausch, Coach Jim Graham
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:

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The second kind of head fake is the really important one—the one that teaches people things they don’t realize they’re learning until well into the process. If you’re a head-fake specialist, your hidden objective is to get them to learn something you want them to learn.

Related Characters: Randy Pausch (speaker), Coach Jim Graham
Related Symbols: The Head Fake
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 14 Quotes

…I had strengths that also were flaws. In Andy’s view, I was self-possessed to a fault, I was way too brash and I was an inflexible contrarian, always spouting opinions. One day, Andy took me for a walk. He put his arm around my shoulders and said, “Randy, it’s such a shame that people perceive you as being so arrogant, because it’s going to limit what you’re going to be able to accomplish in life.”

Related Characters: Randy Pausch (speaker), Professor Andy Van Dam
Page Number: 67-68
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 15 Quotes

While my sister was outlining the rules, I slowly and deliberately opened a can of soda, turned it over, and poured it on the cloth seats in the back of the convertible. My message: People are more important than things. A car, even a pristine gem like my new convertible, was just a thing.

Related Characters: Randy Pausch (speaker), Tammy, Chris, Laura
Page Number: 69-70
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 24 Quotes

…educators best serve students by helping them be more self-reflective. The only way any of us can improve—as Coach Graham taught me—is if we develop a real ability to assess ourselves.

Related Characters: Randy Pausch (speaker), Coach Jim Graham
Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 25 Quotes

“It does take a lot of luck,” he said. “But all of you are already lucky. Getting to work with Randy and learn from him, that’s some kind of luck right there. I wouldn’t be here if not for Randy.”

Related Characters: Tommy Burnett (speaker), Randy Pausch
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 27 Quotes

…if it is presented as a storytelling activity, girls become perfectly willing to learn how to write software. In fact, they love it… Everybody loves telling stories. It’s one of the truly universal things about our species. So in my mind, Caitlin wins the All-Time Best Head-Fake Award.

Related Characters: Randy Pausch (speaker), Caitlin Kelleher
Related Symbols: The Head Fake
Page Number: 128
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 51 Quotes

I made a comment to my dad about the job being beneath those teachers. (I guess I was implying that the job was beneath me, too.) My dad gave me the tongue-lashing of a lifetime. He believed manual labor was beneath no one. He said he’d prefer that I worked hard and became the best ditch-digger in the world rather than coasting along as a self-impressed elitist behind a desk.

Related Characters: Randy Pausch (speaker), Randy’s Dad
Page Number: 169
Explanation and Analysis:

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