According to John Hattie, feedback is one of the most powerful influences on learning and achievement. If this is true for students, shouldn’t it also be true for the adults in the building? Too often teachers receive feedback on their practice only one or two times per year. How many of us only get into classrooms when it is time to do a teacher observation? I know I have been there.
How can we possibly get the full picture of the teaching and learning occurring in our schools when we are barely scratching the surface when it comes to what is happening daily in individual classrooms? We need to ask ourselves what the purpose of teacher observations is—if we are truly interested in promoting growth and reflection, then we must be providing timely, frequent, and specific feedback to teachers just as we would to students. So the questions is, how is your current model of teacher observation supporting (or not supporting) that timely, frequent, and specific feedback?
Finding Time for Feedback
We all have busy schedules and it can sometimes be hard to find time to get out of our offices and into classrooms. But isn’t teaching and learning the most important part of our jobs? If that is the case, how can we rethink our role to reflect that? Towards the end of last school year, I read a book from the Hack Learning Series called, Hacking Leadership. One of the sentences I underlined (twice) was, “Transformative leaders don’t change the world by sending emails or scheduling meetings…”
What truth there is in that statement! How can we support teacher growth and reflection if we aren’t in classrooms engaging with students? We must make time to talk to kids about what they are learning and why it is important. We must be in classrooms frequently enough to be able to have an accurate picture of the curricular and instructional decisions each teacher is making so that we are able to provide that meaningful feedback.
Schedule time to get into classrooms every week
I am a big fan of the Three-Minute Walkthrough model. I make time to get into all classrooms weekly with the intention of talking to students about what they are learning and why. Over time this allows me to more fully understand what curricular decisions are being made and what strategies are being used in each classroom so that I can ask better questions during reflective conversations.
Be intentional about every conversation or exchange
Make time to “just talk” with staff about teaching and learning. Ask about the successes and challenges they are experiencing. Ask how you can support. You will be surprised at how much information and insight these informal check ins can give you. These conversations not only build trust, but also help you better understand the needs of your learners and of your teachers.
Model by being transparent and seeking feedback
I am a firm believer in the fact that we should not be asking others to do what we are not willing to do ourselves. If you want staff to be open and receptive to feedback and reflective conversations, model that behavior yourself. Find time to have reflective conversations with people after PD sessions and staff meetings to ask what they thought went well and what could have been better or clearer. Use exit tickets and/or surveys to elicit feedback that will support your own growth. Be transparent in your conversations with teachers about your own professional growth goals. Doing this not only builds trust, but also shows that you too are willing to roll up your sleeves and do the work necessary to become a better educational leader.
I’d love to hear from you. What are your thoughts? What are you doing in your schools to provide timely feedback to teachers?