What is helpful feedback? Staff evaluations in the educational world should be loaded with feedback to help create better teachers, better students, better world. But what is really happening? We’ve had the evaluation process in place now for several years and, as stated by Jenny Froehle, Educational Consultant, “The process changed our collegial language and upped the bar for holding ourselves accountable as professionals—both those performing in the classroom and those evaluating the performance.” The conversations surrounding the observations/evaluations should be what has upped the bar. But are they?
After speaking with several administrators, thoughts are:
“Feedback allows for on-going communication, quality feedback, time for reflection, and individualized professional development. This feedback allows for professional conversations around effective instructional practices on a regular basis. These conversations must take place among teachers and administrators in a cooperative climate of mutual respect and trust.” Joel McKinney, Superintendent, Frankfort Community Schools
“We are asking deep questions of teachers about their leadership, their planning, their assessment practices, and their work with families. It would be easy to let this go. It’s time consuming and tedious to gather and reflect on data. It’s uncomfortable sometimes to be honest about practices that need to change. But the conversations really pay honor to the complex and challenging work that is teaching.” Jenny Froehle, retired Zionsville Administrator & Educational Consultant
“The conversations which may precede, and certainly follow, each observation have come to be very detailed, professional, and collaborative opportunities for all involved to have honest and creative talks about what good teaching looks like and how teaching and learning is a fluid process; always changing and, hopefully, improving.” Gary Bates, retired Rensselaer Central Administrator
“The biggest difference is prior to five years ago these were sometime conversations, now they occur almost daily.” Derek Arrowwood, Superintendent, Hamilton Heights Community Schools
Through the feedback conversations, teachers across the nation are being transformed into Instructional Leaders, realizing that the evaluations are taking place with them and not done to them. “Administrators and teachers are talking about instructional strategies, procedures, student learning styles, classroom management, and most importantly, student data to drive instruction. The need for teachers and administrators to be the instructional leaders has allowed the conversations around the water cooler to change from last night’s sports scores to, ‘What ways are you using to check for understanding?’ and, ‘How are you engaging students in the academic content?’” Todd Whitlock, CEO, SFS
Think about your staff feedback conversations. Are these conversations both before and after an observation or do you run in during recess? Do you already have it written for presentation because you “know the teacher” or are you really observing for feedback? Do you wait until the last minute to beat the deadline? Do you offer strategies or, when asked, send them to someone else for those strategies? Do you ask their opinion but don’t actively listen? These are common mistakes when it comes to evaluation feedback. Instead, reflect on the following ideas from Indiana RISE for strong, constructive feedback:
- Prepare: Prioritize one or two parts of the teacher’s practice on which to focus based on rubric-aligned evidence.
- Set the tone: Begin the conversation by making the teacher feel comfortable and encouraging engagement.
- Identify development areas: Work together to define one or two areas for development. Invite ideas with active listening, conveying interest and respect for ideas of the individual.
- Plan concrete action: Develop clear, measurable steps the teacher can take to improve.
- Set a timeline: Establish when and how the teacher will show that the action has been accomplished.
The evaluation process is slowly moving to a professional growth process- keep the conversations going. Schedule a demo with our team of educators and we will help you develop a “feedback-rich” culture!