The Benefits of Feedback
The benefits of lesson observation and feedback are many
Who wants Feedback? And how do you want it?
I was invited to give a talk at a gathering of teachers. The aim was to encourage the teachers to open up to feedback, from each other as well as their students.
I guessed that some teachers were already involved in some kind of observation and feedback activities in their teaching teams, and knew from personal experience that many teachers were initially resistant to the idea of head teachers or colleagues coming into their classrooms to observe and give feedback.
My strategy was to empower the teachers, to let them know that there were ways to manage the feedback that was already happening, and thereby open them up to other teachers giving them feedback.
In the book "A Coaching Approach to Education" I offer a rough transcript of the talk that I gave.
Direct Feedback and Coaching Feedback
Which of these feels most empowering for you?
Being in charge of when the feedback shall be done, by whom and what to focus on, i.e. asking for feedback, makes the feedback process and results more manageable. You can ask for what you want, when you want it, and use it as you wish. When students for example know that you are taking their feedback into consideration, they often calm down, show more consideration and respect, and learn more. You can give feedback to a colleague when they ask for it. That does not mean "when you think they need it"!
It's useful to base teacher-to-teacher feedback on an agreed set of principles and criteria.
These are usefully based on SCORE:
S hadow - generally getting to know the teacher’s situation from their point of view
C riteria - picking out some specifics to pay attention to during the upcoming observation
O bservation - The teacher observes their colleague in action during a lesson
R eflection - Together the teachers think back on and reflect on what happened during the lesson
E xperiment - Selecting some different activities, ways of thinking, ways of tackling issues etc.
Teacher asking students to give themselves feedback
We are sitting at the back of the classroom having watched a whole lesson unfold with its fair share of order and chaos, planned activities done and other activities not done, some students fully involved and other students less so.
The teacher has gathered in all the equipment and papers that were used in the lesson. The next thing on the schedule is lunch. The students return to their seats, waiting for the final instructions from their teacher.
The teacher stands at the front of the class and calmly asks each student in turn, these three questions:
The whole process takes about eight minutes, during which the students have revealed for themselves the results of their own efforts during the lesson; and allowed them to note at least one thing to do differently next time.
The process is carried out with order, respect and full involvement. The students listen with respect to each other’s learning and suggestions of what to do differently.
After the last student has spoken, there is a short pause until the teacher tells the students to go to lunch. Then there’s a rush for the door, and a delightful, youthful chaos as twenty students head towards food.
In my mind’s eye I can imagine this teacher start the next lesson with the same students with these three questions:
Teachers responses to Feedback
Teachers responses to feedback will be to Delete, Distort, Generalise, of course
We are all human. So what might your response have been in this situation... ?
I felt that I wasn’t quite reaching all the students in one particular class. We had had several great lessons during the terms so far where everyone seemed to be engaged and active in their own way and yet I had a nagging feeling that something was amiss.
Every teacher in the school had for months been working on ‘Formative Assessment’ and I realised that I too would benefit from similar feedback. The idea of bringing colleagues into the classroom to observe me and give me some fornmative assessment seemed too challenging since they were tied to their own timetables. And then I realised that there were already twenty students in the room whom I could ask. I was looking for a quick and easy way to get honest feedback from the students. The obvious solution was to use an anonymous feedback form, on paper.
During the term I had previously given the students in this class several sessions with feedback, in public and in private, so they were quite used to the idea and format of giving and receiving feedback. Towards the end of one lesson, I placed an "Excellent / Good / OK / Poor" feedback form at the front of the class and invited the students to make a mark where they assessed the quality of my lessons (in general) to be. At the end of the lesson I moved to the back of the room, tidying up, and the students made their marks as they left the room.
I had chosen 4 categories to avoid getting too many “middle” answers. I anticipated there would be a spread of answers across the range. I hoped for a few “Excellent” marks.I got a wake-up call.
Although the majority of the marks were Excellent and Good, there were two marks under Poor.
I found it oddly difficult to focus on the generally high mark that the class had given me. What stuck out in my mind were the two Poor marks, and that I had no idea who had made them. I realised that I had opened up a channel of communication with the students that was different and more useful to the usual classroom situation.
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Teacher, facilitator and coach; Martin Richards trains educators to use a coaching approach all the work they do.