Don’t you hate it when you are giving a teacher feedback and . . .
And what’s worse, you just know that the teacher will ignore your feedback and not make any changes in the classroom.
Well what you might not realize is that there is a reason for that reaction and it’s not what you might think. You see, over the years, we’ve picked up some really bad feedback habits.
Today, I want to talk about four of the most pervasive ones I’ve seen. Then, I want to show you how to give feedback #LikeABuilder.
Bad Habit One: Your feedback is not specific enough.
There are terms of art in education such as “rigor” or “differentiation” or “student engagement” that we all use. The problem is, we all mean something slightly different by them. I call these terms “educator-ese” and if you use them, it is likely that teachers have one interpretation of them when you mean something quite different.
Bad Habit Two: You’re giving too much feedback
Most feedback teachers receive is a deluge of information. With so much feedback, it’s hard for teachers to understand where to start or what to work on first. Even if you restrict your feedback to 2 or 3 things, it’s usually too much. For instance, if you use the typical hamburger feedback and give teachers one negative sandwiched between two positive comments, the teacher will either overly focus on the negative and ignore the positive, or only focus on the positive comments and completely disregard the negative.
Bad Habit Three: Your feedback is not targeted to your teachers’ needs
A lot of what passes for feedback in schools nowadays is really a word-by-word regurgitation of the teacher evaluation standards. When your feedback serves your instrument rather than the teacher how can you really have an impact on the teacher’s practice?
Bad Habit Four: No Call to Action
At the end of most feedback conversations the leader typically leaves next steps up to the teacher. While they may emphasize what the teacher needs to work on, they often leave it up to the teacher how she will put their feedback in place. Without a specific call to action, you cannot be sure that teachers will act on your feedback in the way that you intend.
So what should you do instead?
Well Builders have a different way of giving feedback:
Builders Give Specific Feedback. They don’t take for granted that everyone shares their understanding of even the most basic terms of art. Instead of using “educator-ese” Builders take time to explain exactly what they mean by “rigor” or “differentiation” or “student engagement.” They use examples, share resources, and spend time explaining (without coming across as patronizing). That way, they can be sure that everyone is on the same page.
Builders Give ONE thing feedback. Builders don’t overwhelm teachers with too much feedback. Instead, they summarize their feedback (which meets the demands of their evaluation system) and then go one step further. They give the teacher ONE thing to work on. And they don’t just choose any old one thing either. Builders take time to determine the ROOT cause of a teacher’s practice and get the teacher focused on fixing that first. If teachers address the ROOT cause, they often resolve a lot of the other issues that may be cropping up in their practice as well. Plus, because they are working on the ROOT cause, teachers see gains in their practice more quickly (which is very motivating by the way) and those wins are much more lasting.
Builders target their feedback to teachers’ needs. They do so by differentiating their feedback to teachers in the same way that we expect teachers to differentiate their feedback to students. Struggling teachers need different feedback than highly effective teachers. So, Builders have a range of feedback approaches and match those approaches to each teacher’s need.
Builders always make a call to action. Because Builders try to move teachers up at least one level in their focus area each year, they are very specific about what steps the teacher needs to take next. And yet, they never mandate what teachers should be doing. Instead, they collaborate with teachers to help them figure out what would be their best next move and so that both they and the teacher leave each feedback conversation with clarity around what should happen next. This also keeps Builders organized so that they can follow up effectively.
In the next few posts, I’ll be going into more detail about HOW to give feedback #LikeABuilder. In the meantime, I want to know from you: Which of the feedback habits do you need to break?
Or, if you don’t want to be quite that vulnerable (this is the WORLD WIDE web afterall) then tell me which of the four mistakes are you most interested in learning more about?
Either way, I’m listening . . . let me know below.