I recently read an ACSD InService blog entitled “What are your students doing with the feedback you provide?” While the blog was about how we can coach up our students to respond to feedback in our classrooms, I reflected on how teachers are or are not using feedback provided to them by administrators during formal or informal classroom observations.
There are some key ways we, as leaders, can make our feedback to teachers meaningful. We can also support them in using the feedback in authentic ways in their teaching.
Making Feedback Meaningful
- Administrators and coaches who are in classrooms often are best able to provide relevant and meaningful feedback – so get out of your office and get into rooms! For support with this, check out my post on making time for classrooms visits.
- Feedback that is based on a teacher’s individual goals is more meaningful than generic praise or commentary.
- Feedback that is aligned to school or district initiatives is more likely to be meaningful to the teacher’s daily practice.
- Strength-based coaching meets the teacher at his or individual learning point, presuming positive intentions and a desire to grow.
- Consider narrow and specific, evidence-based feedback. Generic statements like, “Good job!” or “I liked your questioning techniques” do not support a teacher’s growth. Evidence-based feedback requires you to notice the specifics of what you see in a room in order to provide meaningful feedback. For example, “I appreciated the way in which you did a quick check for understanding with your entire class by having them chorally read and fill in the review cloze paragraph. You heard someone say a wrong answer and you immediately gave the class corrective feedback on that content, which is what is so powerful about a quick check for understanding within a lesson.”
Support Teachers in Using Feedback
- As Tricia Kurtt, the ASCD blogger, wrote, teachers need time to reflect on feedback in order to use it. Teachers are incredibly busy. There never seems to be enough time in the day or week. Prep times are used for catching up, preparing and looking ahead, lesson planning, grading student work, collaborating with colleague, communicating with parents, and more! In order to help teachers build a habit of reflection, we need to give them dedicated time. Time for self-reflection, time to consider their professional growth, and time to read and digest feedback. Reflection is a powerful tool for each of us!
- Consider providing grade or content area teams, or PLCs, with team feedback. This feedback can be about alignment to curriculum guides, evidence of collaboration, or other team-specific initiates. The teachers can come together to review the feedback and discuss how it might impact their planning or instruction.
- Follow up! If a leader comes into a classroom for a few minutes, drops off a note (or an email) and doesn’t return for weeks or months, a teacher is unlikely to use the feedback shared. However, if the teacher expects the administrator to return to his room within a week or so, the teacher is more likely to want to address the feedback in order to be prepared for the follow up conversation.
My email signature reads, “Always learning, Amy” at the end of each email I send. Not only am I a lifelong learner, but I try to model this in all I say and do. When we create a culture of learning, or a culture of “continual improvement” as was described in the ASCD blog, we crave feedback. We seek out feedback, we share our goals so that we can receive authentic and specific feedback, and we make adjustments to our practice based on feedback from trusted peers and leaders.