I recently read Susan Brookhart’s book, How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students, published by ASCD (2008). The focus is feedback that comes from a teacher to a student and is based on student work. “It is just-in–time, just-for-me information delivered when and where it can do the most good.”
I had recently presented an introduction to peer coaching, “what and how” to a high school faculty, and during the break some teachers shared with me feedback cards that administrators were giving teachers following walkthrough visits. Teachers felt that the cards were evaluative rather than coaching. When I spoke with administrators, they told me they started the cards at the request of teachers wanting to know “what the administrators saw” on the walkthroughs.
After reading Brookhart’s book, I realized many of her comments on effective feedback for students could be applied to the administrators’ and coaches’ feedback to teachers. Here are a few of the comments I sent back to the client using the feedback cards:
“What we now realize is that the message sent is filtered through the student’s perception (influenced by prior knowledge, experiences, and motivation) as it becomes the message received. The student’s job is to make meaning from schoolwork, not to respond to stimuli.”
I am thinking that administrators need to think about “what meaning” teachers are taking from the feedback. That is tricky in coaching where you are reading the face, body, and voice of the teacher in front of you. Consider how difficult this becomes when you are leaving a written note.
“Teacher feedback is input that, together with students’ own internal input, will help the students decide where they are in regard to the learning goals they need or want to meet and what they will tackle next.”
This statement reminds me that there needs to be a clear understanding between administrator and teacher as to the learning goal for the teacher, either as a schoolwide, department, or individual learning plan. Very often, this is missing, especially in larger schools.
“Feedback can be information that drives the process, or it can be a stumbling block that derails the process.”
I’d encourage administrators to frequently check with staff as to the impact of current feedback on teacher growth.
Here are a few more of Brookhart’s comments from Figure 1.1 Feedback Strategies and Figure 1.2 Feedback Content (pages 5-7) Consider their application to your work with teachers:
-Provide feedback as often as is practical
-Prioritize- pick the most important points
-Interactive feedback (talking with the student) is best when possible
-Use demonstration if “how to do something” is an issue
-Describe, don’t judge
-Tailor the amount and content of feedback to the student’s development
-Choose words that communicate respect for the student and the work
-Choose words that cause students to think or wonder
Giving effective feedback to students or teachers is a skill that takes conscious practice. You may find this ASCD book helpful in your work.
Here is another resource from Jim Knight…..
“The Kansas Coaching Project, in partnership with the Instructional Coaching Group, is announcing the beta versions of the Big Four teaching tools. If you go to the tools section of the KCP website you’ll discover a lot of tools, including mini-coaching manuals related to such topics as the real learning index, content planning, high-level questioning, and intensive-explicit instruction. Also, you’ll find a copy of the new Big Four walk-through, a survey for assessing the effectiveness of coaching programs, Sue Woodruff’s assessment tool that coaches can use for evaluating the impact of coaching, as well as several articles and many new presentations. These tools are not finished products; indeed, they may never be finished products. I am beginning to believe that we should never stop improving the teaching tools that coaches use to improve instruction. So I am putting these tools out there for people to try out and give us feedback. We hope to continually refine our tools so that they are simpler and more powerful, with the goal of creating a set of tools that help us achieve our goal of having an unmistakable positive impact on children’s lives. All of these tools are free, and you can copy them, use them, and share them. All we ask is that you share with us what you have learned. Your ideas will help us make them better. I have already received many suggestions for improvements, and I’m excited about putting more and more simple and powerful tools on line.”
I spoke with Jim and he is anxious to receive feedback you have working with any of these tools. Those of you headed to NSDC in December, Jim and I will both be there.