Beginning a new school as the designated leader is the perfect time to establish positive relationships. Getting to know staff is an important area that can be enhanced by spending time inside classrooms. This provides support for the class teacher and a offers a common environment for discussions on improving student and teacher learning. It is through the giving of feedback that we can work with teachers on improving practice.
However, giving feedback can create tension between school leaders and teachers. This can fracture relationships rendering the act of giving feedback to being a mere accountability exercise.
When working with teachers, I like to see the process of giving feedback after an observation as being the difference between evaluating a teacher and developing a teacher. To develop a teacher effective feedback needs to be genuine. Here are a few thoughts on how to give effective feedback:
- When meeting with the teacher after an observation ask targeted questions on the area of focus. This keeps the conversation directly at the heart of the teaching process.
- Use evidence to help illuminate the area of improvement. By providing explicit examples from the lesson you are focusing on the art of teaching and helping the teacher connect to their lesson delivery.
- Give precise praise and not simply warm hearted compliments. Be very clear on what the teacher does well.
- Giving feedback is about supporting improvement. State concrete actions to work on.
- Finally, it is good practice to provide examples to solidify understanding. Allowing the teacher to also verbally “re-enact” a future lesson using the advice allows you the opportunity to see if the teacher understood your feedback.
However some leaders could get caught up in some common mistakes as they try and support their teachers. such mistakes can inhibit the fostering of good relationships:
- The provision of feedback judges the person and not the action. Getting personal in feedback is never a good idea.
- Do no provide feedback that is vague as it does not give good direction and guidance to the teacher.
- Too many poor leaders try and bury negative feedback in between positive comments, hoping not to upset the teacher.
- The observer’s feedback is too general and doesn’t give enough detail for the teacher to work with.
- On the other hand, the feedback given is too lengthy and confuses the teacher.
Ultimately, feedback can be one of the most powerful influences on student learning. However it is critical that teachers know what the desired performance or behaviour is expected thus allowing transparency in the coaching and mentoring process. (and success in the relationship building!)