Giving feedback to teachers


Published on

Published in: Education
1 Comment
No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Giving feedback to teachers

  1. 1. Thoughts on Providing Feedback to TeachersWhile brief classroom visits may sometimes seem to be only a superficial way to monitor theteaching and learning in a school, there is research that suggests that such observations, withappropriate and meaningful feedback, can be useful in improving practices in a school. In order tosupport results-oriented teacher team meetings that result in improved student achievement, theremust be ongoing and focused interaction between the administration, leadership teams, andclassroom teachers. Through regular visits to classrooms, the principal is better able tounderstand what is happening with teaching and learning in each classroom, communicatefrequently and specifically with teachers, and give teams the feedback, training, support, andresources they need to meet school goals and achievement targets. Classroom walkthroughs ormini observations are obviously not the same as full-length classroom observations that are usedas the foundation for teacher evaluation. In both cases, however, while the purposes are different,the observation and feedback should be focused on • What and how the teacher is teaching (quality of content and process) • How well the teacher is addressing the needs of the students • What students are learning and how we know that they are • What teachers are doing to help students who are having difficulty as well as support students who should be further challenged • How well the class is working toward achieving school goals and expectations • How well the teacher is meeting standards/expectations for his/her profession • Identifying and communicating the strengths in the lesson as well as the needed areas of improvement.Short observations can be used to: • Coach, not evaluate. These observations are not a part of the official evaluation cycle, but are used to gather information that can be used to work with an individual, or groups of teachers, to improve their practices. • Measure the impact of professional development. (Was this the right focus for PD? Are teachers implementing a strategy or plan that was developed? How effectively is it being implemented? Is it having the desired impact on learning?) • Aggregate data across teachers over time. For example, “in observing in classes over a period of three weeks, it appeared to the principal that teachers were using whole-group, teacher directed instruction 72% of the time.”Short classroom observations allow the instructional leader to: • Praise teachers on exemplary practices • Provide frequent feedback to reinforce school expectations • Connect with teachers and staff • Communicate the belief that individual teachers can accomplish school goals • Reinforce the use of assessment results as they inform instruction • Assess the quality, fidelity, and consistency of instructional practices to identify individual and school-wide professional development needs. • Uncover staff concerns and modify leadership behaviors accordingly4/24/2011 1
  2. 2. In establishing the climate and protocols for classroom observations and feedback, you shouldconsider the following foundational steps. 1. Make sure the basics are in place. This includes scheduling time for team meetings, crystal-clear end-of-year learning expectations; common assessments including interim and benchmarks, regular ongoing professional development, and review if lesson/unit plans. This provides the basic foundation of the work of the school and the purpose for observations. 2. Decide on the irreducible elements of good teaching. What will be the key components you expect of each lesson (e.g. specific learning targets aligned to standards, checking for understanding, student engagement, formative assessment, differentiation, higher order levels of knowledge, guided practice and independent practice, etc.) 3. Systematically visit classrooms on a regular basis. (e.g. you might decide to spend 10-12 minutes in a classroom and visit all classes in a two week block of time.) If needed, actually schedule the time for your classroom visits and let others know that this time each day will be used for visiting classrooms. 4. Take regular opportunities to talk to teachers, face-to-face after classroom visits. Such conversations should contain an appropriate mix of appreciation, questioning, or criticism. These chats should include a probe about student learning: What level of Bloom’s taxonomy were you using? What were students demonstrating in the Algebra quiz? How will students build their writing skills with this assignment? How did you know that students understood the process you were explaining? 5. Require teams to give and analyze common interim assessments. After each assessment, it is important for teams to meet to answer three basic questions: (a) What percentage of students scored at the advanced, proficient, basic, and below-basic level? (2) In which areas did students do best, and where were they confused and unsuccessful? And(c) What’s our strategy for addressing the weakest areas and helping students who are struggling. 6. Use aggregated short observation visits to provide an overview and focus for teacher learning and professional developmentProviding FeedbackFeedback to teachers can be provided in a variety of ways- Post-it notes, checklists, handwrittencomments, programmed Palm Pilots, iPhones, and e-mails. However, these formats limit what’ssaid, raise the stakes, and almost never lead to a real dialogue between the teacher andadministrator. All teachers spend most of their working days with students and are curious aboutwhat other adults think-especially the principal. There are a number of advantages to providingface-to-face feedback • Teachers are more likely to be open to it because it’s informal and unwritten • The principal can get a sense of whether the teacher is open to critical feedback and hold off if the teacher does not seem receptive, or the timing is off. • The teacher can supply additional information to put the lesson and unit in perspective • The teacher can push back if the principal misunderstood something • The conversation can segue into a more general talk about how things are going, questions the teacher might have, opportunities to suggest support or resources • There is not paperwork • It is immediate4/24/2011 2
  3. 3. Setting the StageWhen you are holding a conversation with a teacher to provide feedback • Be sure to set the stage. Explain why you are holding the conversation and what you expect to be the outcome. • Encourage dialog • Listen to what the teacher has to say. Much of what you want the teacher to do may come directly from comments that the teacher makes. The principal does not need to be totally directive . Help the teacher voice/express her thinking about the lesson and areas of potential improvement. • At the end of the conversation, determine with the teacher what next steps are expected • Set a time for the next observation or a timeline for expected outcomes. “When I visit classrooms next week, I hope to see examples of formative assessment being used in the lessons.Effective feedback 1. Is specific, not general (Say, “Because the graphic organizer had headings for each category, students were able to record the important information about the topic.” Don’t say “Nice use of graphic organizers.”) 2. Is sincerely and honestly provided to help. People will know if they are receiving it for any other reason. 3. Focuses on the most important pieces of information and suggestions for improvement. If too much information is given, the person will feel overwhelmed and will not know what steps he/she needs to take next. 4. Describes actions or behavior that the individual can do something about. 5. Involves the sharing of information and observations. 6. Involves what or how something was done, not why. Asking why is asking people about their motivation and that provokes defensiveness. (“I noticed that the students sitting in the first group were called on more times than the students sitting in the back.” Not, “Why didn’t you call on the table at the back?”) 7. Checks to make sure the other person understood what you communicated by using a feedback loop, such as asking a question or asking them to tell you what it might look like if done differently next time. 8. Communicates to a person or team the effect their behavior is having on another person. (“When there are not enough copies of the article to be read, it makes it difficult for all students to participate in the lesson.”) 9. Alerts an individual to an area in which his performance could improve; it is descriptive and should always be directed to the action. (“The lesson would be more effective if you had students repeat the directions before they begin to do the work.” 10. Specifically states what you want the person to do in the future. (“When you submit your next unit plan, please include two strategies to modify the lesson for those students who are not showing mastery of the skill.”)4/24/2011 3
  4. 4. Giving Negative or Growth Feedback That is Heard 1. Pick the time and place carefully- a good feedback session should not be spur-of-the- moment; it requires privacy and enough time to do just ice to what’s being said. 2. Don’t email criticism- This is not an appropriate forum for difficult conversations, which require face-to-ace contact and an opportunity for clarification and interaction 3. Be timely- Don’t wait a long time after you identify the problem. On the other hand, if you’re still emotional yourself, wait until you’re calm and collected. 4. Be specific- Vague generalities will not help the teacher. The more specific you are, the more push-back there may be, but also the more chance there is for real learning and change on the teacher’s part. For example “The lesson didn’t make good use of time,” is too vague. A more specific wording might be, “Time could have been better used if the materials had been distributed as the students entered the class, and homework placed in a central location, rather than using potential instructional time to distribute and collect papers.” 5. Watch your body language- Non-verbal cues can communicate as much as words. You need to be sure that your eyes, face, and body are giving the same message as your words.” For a particularly difficult conversation, it may help to role play with a trusted assistant. 6. Provide a rationale- The teacher needs to understand why this incident or behavior is important to you- the implications and the context of your thinking. 7. Allow for a response- No drive-by feedback! If you want to change behavior, you need to two-way conversation. The teacher must have time to absorb what you have said and respond to it, “making meaning” of your criticism. 8. Clarify what you said- Rephrasing the message at the end can help: “Let me be sure that I was clear in what I said…” , or asking the teacher to rephrase what you expect of them. Alternatively, you might want to follow up with a memo outlining your key points so there will be no misunderstanding. 9. Praise more than you criticize- Positive “deposits” in the “interpersonal bank account” make criticism easier to accept. These, however, should be real and specific and should not be a system of counting such as 3 positive for every 1 negative. 10. Separate the good from the not-so-good”- Try not to list positives and then add a “but.” This is a pattern that people are used to and they will see the positives as just an attempt to soften the blow. Create a format that honestly lists areas of strength and the specific area to grow. For example: Area of Concern Positive + You have been contacting parents It is important to contact parents with information that is positive, not just negative You are providing feedback to parents on For some parents, it is also important to students academic performance talk to them personally You are sending information to parents Information to parents needs to contain about what is happening in the classroom specific recommendations and information about the parent can help the student at home4/24/2011 4
  5. 5. “Sentence Stems” to Help in Feedback Conversations with TeachersThe following are some questions or statements that can actively engage teachers in aconversation about their instruction. These can keep the conversation focused on areas ofimportance to the administrator while ensuring that the teacher has an opportunity to be heard andset new goals or next steps for their work. • Could you tell me more about…. • I am not sure I understand (or that I saw…) can you tell me what you were expecting? • I noticed that ……(“this student did…”, “The learning outcome was…” The lessons steps included…..) • Tell me more about what was happening when… • When I observed_____, it made me think of/ wonder/ consider… • What did you want to see happen when… • We’ve been talking about _____ during professional development, how does this lesson support that work? • How does this lesson fit into the work being done by your grade level/ content area team? • Was there anything that surprised you? • What will be your plan in the next week to……? • What do you think about…..? • What steps have you taken/ or will you take? • Is this something you think you can do? • Do students have the opportunity to… • It might be helpful to… • Did you get the response that you wanted? • How did this lesson match the data from the interim assessments? • You asked the following questions….. How do they support higher order thinking skills? • What were three successful things about this lesson? What would you do differently if you were to teach this lesson again? • Were students able to show their understanding of the outcome you stated for this lesson? • Can we talk about how you use student data in your lessons? • I would like to visit the class again (or will be visiting the class again) and hope to see…. • If this lesson is part of a unit of student, what other activities or outcomes will be a part of the unit? How will students demonstrate their understanding?4/24/2011 5
  6. 6. SOURCES OF INFORMATION “Classroom Walkthroughs: Learning to See the Trees and the Forest” by Howard Pitler with Bryan Goodwin in Changing Schools, McREL, summer 2008, The full article is available at ChangingSchools 58 4.pdf Crucial Conversations, Ron McMillan, McGraw Hill, 2002 “Doing Mini-Observations Right- Seven Decision Points for the Principal”, Kim Marshall, Education Week, Feb. 4, 2009 (Vol. 28, #20, p. 24-25) “High-Leverage Strategies for Principal Leadership” Richard Dufour and Robert Marzano, Educational Leadership, February 2009 (Vol. 66 #5, p. 62-68) “How to Provide Feedback That Has an Impact,” Susan Heathfield, “It’s Time to Rethink Teacher Supervision and Evaluation” by Kim Marshall in Phi Delta Kappan, June 2005 (Vol. 86, #10, p. 727-735.) “Negative Feedback: Making Yourself Heard” by Thomas Hoerr, Principal Magazine, March/April 2004 (Vol. 82, *4, p. 63-64)4/24/2011 6