Part 1, Chapter 7: Feedback
Most of us can think of a time when feedback was useful to us. It may not have been formal feedback, but rather a simple, informal suggestion. Anyone who has participated in athletics has likely received feedback from a coach at some time. Comments written by a teacher on a term paper or project may also be considered feedback to the student aspiring to improve a grade or standing in a class.
Why, then, is it so difficult to provide meaningful, consistent feedback concerning job performance? To answer this question, this chapter will define effective feedback and discuss some of the issues surrounding a feedback rich culture in schools.
When training new administrators, I often ask the group how long it takes them to do a typical teacher evaluation. The answers vary, based upon what is required by individual school districts as part of their evaluation plan. But it has usually been determined that an evaluator spends 45-50 minutes observing a classroom, as this is consistent with a middle or high school class period, or a block of subject time in an elementary classroom.
The next phase of the observation progression comes when the evaluator exits the classroom. This is when the evaluator must clean up any scripting or note-taking they have recorded during the observation. Next is the mapping to standards, checking artifacts, lesson plans, and documentation of teacher leadership, as well as conducting pre and post conferences. If you take these hours involved in a single long evaluation, multiply it by each staff member…
This is typically where I see administrators new to the profession begin to panic. In an occupation that is already labor intensive and time starved, they are now being told that the tasks involved in evaluating and providing meaningful feedback will demand that they create even more hours in their day.
Feedback is defined as information that describes performance (Bartz, Thompson, & Rice, 2017). In a lecture at the NeuroLeadership Summit in Boston, Kevin Ochsner of Columbia University stated that people only apply the feedback they receive about 30% of the time (Ochsner, 2010). To have spent 45-60 hours on documentation, preparation, and professional conversation that may have only had a 30% return on employee improvement is concerning to those who analyze effective human resource strategies (Standard for Success Survey Data, 2016). Therefore, as teacher evaluators, we need to maximize the effectiveness of evaluation comments.
Effective feedback is consistent, both in terms of frequency, and free of conflicting messages. It’s an ongoing conversation; not a formal event that just takes place every few months. Forbes recently published an online article stating that employees desire consistent feedback; thus, an annual review in isolation is no longer adequate (Bersin, 2013).
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