The Anatomy of a Good Feedback Conversation | Mindsteps Inc.

The Anatomy of a Good Feedback Conversation

You’ve finally found it . . .

You see, I often get asked for a script for conducting feedback conversations with teachers.

And while I can’t give you a word-by-word script for each feedback conversation you face this year, I can give you a Feedback Conversation Framework that we teach here at Mindsteps.

It is pretty failsafe and it allows you to have an authentic feedback conversation with teachers that they will not only welcome, but act on.

Step One: Greeting

The first step seems a little self-explanatory but it’s amazing how many of us skip this step and get right to the feedback.

Instead, greet the teacher warmly and state your intention for conversation. You can say something like, “Barbara, I am so glad I got a chance to see your class yesterday. My intention for this conversation is to share with you some of my observations, hear your reaction, and then work together to identify some areas of growth for you going forward.”

Or, “John, thank you for inviting me into your classroom yesterday. My intention for this conversation is to follow up with you on our earlier conversation about differentiation, give you some feedback on your progress, hear your thoughts, and ultimately work together to figure out what your next steps should be.”

Notice by stating your intention for the conversation, you can put the teacher at ease and set the tone for the conversation.

(Note: We cover all the steps to an effective feedback conversation step-by-step in the Feedback Fast-track Formula Master Class. Sign up here.)

Step Two: Context

The purpose of the context is to give the teacher a chance to explain what happened during the lesson you observed. This is important for 2 reasons:

  1. It helps you understand what the teacher was trying to accomplish
  2. It gives you a chance to ask clarifying questions

That way, when you get to your feedback the teacher is more likely to receive it because you’ve taken time to understand the context of the lesson.

(Note: We cover all the steps to an effective feedback conversation step-by-step in the Feedback Fast-track Formula Master Class. Sign up here.)

Step Three: Differentiated Feedback

Here is the meat of the conversation. This is where you share your feedback with the teacher.

But you are not just sharing generic feedback. The most powerful feedback is differentiated in order to meet teachers where they are and help them get where you want them to go.

For instance, if you are working with a struggling teacher, their biggest struggle is that something critical is missing from their practice. They need to acquire a skill or strategy in order to improve. Thus, it doesn’t make sense to give the teacher feedback he or she doesn’t yet have the skill to act on. Instead, give the teacher diagnostic feedback that helps the teacher understand what isn’t working in their classroom and why it isn’t working first. Only after they understand what isn’t working can they truly be invested in fixing it.

If you are working with a teacher who needs improvement (what we call an Apprentice Teacher) you need to take a different tact. These teachers have a basic understanding of what should be happening in their classroom but they struggle to implement strategies and skills effectively. So, what these teachers need the most is prescriptive feedback that helps them apply strategies effectively. That way, they learn how to refine their skills and develop a “teacher sense” that helps them know when to use which skill appropriately.

Teachers who are already proficient need a different kind of feedback. You cannot give them the same kind of feedback as a struggling teacher because their needs are different. Instead, you should shift your feedback from being diagnostic or prescriptive to feedback that is descriptive. With descriptive feedback, you give the teacher more ownership and responsibility to see and address their challenges and assimilate their skills into a seamless practice. But, proficient teachers have the skill set they need to be able to do so effectively.

Master Teachers also need a different type of feedback. What frustrates master teachers most is that they are rarely challenged by the feedback they get. Instead, they either hear nothing but “good job,” or they hear suggestions for minor tweaks that feel more like nitpicking than constructive feedback. What’s more, master teachers who don’t get good feedback become unconsciously competent and over time, they can get bored and their practice get stagnant. To prevent this, give master teachers micro-feedback that helps them understand the root cause of their effectiveness and remain consciously competent. By identifying the root cause of their effectiveness, you can give them a focus for how they can adapt their practice to keep it fresh. Plus you can give them suggestions that are actually relevant, useful, motivating, and challenging without diminishing their excellence in the classroom.

(Note: Want the step-by-step framework for diagnostic, prescriptive, descriptive, and micro feedback conversations as well as examples for each type? Download your copy of the eBook The Four Types of Feedback)

Step Four: Next Steps

After you have shared your differentiated feedback, the final step is to discuss next steps with the teacher. What do you want the teacher to do with your feedback? If you do not give the teacher a call to action, then you risk the teacher taking your feedback and doing nothing with it.

You should also be explicit about how you will follow up and provide support. That way, you can hold teachers accountable and you leave the conversation with a clear plan for what happens next. Plus, you have clearly stated how you plan to support the teacher so you can be accountable to the teacher as well. With this mutual accountability you are more likely see teachers implement your feedback.

So there you have it -- The framework for Fearless and Failsafe Feedback Conversations. Use this framework and you can give teachers feedback #LikeABuilder

Note: We go into more detail about each of these elements in Feedback Fast-Track Formula Master Class. In fact, I’ll walk you through each step and give you all the tools you need to structure the conversation start to finish. Grab your spot today.