I’ve often struggled with the most appropriate way to give feedback to a teacher once I’ve visited their classroom. Questions I grapple with include:
- Should I ask the teacher to reflect on my observation before I give feedback?
- When I give feedback what is more effective verbal or written?
- How should I deliver the feedback?
- What balance do I strike between positive uplifting comments and next steps?
This month, as I’m coaching two second grade teachers during Writers’ Workshop, I’m trying two different feedback loops.
One teacher’s classroom, I visit four days a week during the one hour Writers’ Workshop. I observe the mini-lesson, work period, and closing session, and offer written feedback. The written feedback is done that day and gets emailed to the teacher. The written feedback allows the teacher to read and reflect on the feedback, and look for patterns. She also has the ability to reply and ask questions at her convenience without having to sit and formally meet with me. I structure the feedback in three parts:
- Factual Observation Notes
- Things to Continue
- Things to Think About
In the first, I simply record factual observations rather than opinions or suggestions. In part two, I suggest best practice ideas to continue. I list as many things as possible. In the third section, I focus on next steps in the form of a question giving the teacher the opportunity to reflect and adjust instruction accordingly. I list no more than three questions in this section, and really prefer to keep it to two questions if possible. At any given time, there may be a list of things I could ask the teacher to think about, however just like a teacher selects a teaching point while conferring with a student, I too, must pick teaching points that will most effectively move the teacher forward.
My feedback to Teacher #1 as shown through this link, is written, delivered same day, and has the advantage of not consuming teacher planning time. However, the disadvantage must be weighed of not having face to face dialogue.
On the other hand, the other second grade teacher I am coaching has asked me to visit during her Writers’ Workshop work period. She wanted me to model how I confer with students, and wanted my feedback on how her students were doing compared to other second graders.
While I confer with students, I record my conferring notes on a sticky pad so she can easily transfer them to her anecdotal notes. She and I have informal conversation about my teaching points with students. This gives her a good idea of whether she would confer with them on the same teaching point. She also has the opportunity to have me watch her confer with students.
With this teacher, we’ve had the opportunity to have verbal dialogue and written correspondences. We talk for about two minutes as we come toward the end of the work period, she reads my sticky notes, and often stops by during her planning time to touch base. We also use email to ask and answer questions.
In addition, I’ve pulled professional literature on writing conferences and reminded her that a teacher teaches the writer and not the writing, and that you have to give the student the one next step to move their work forward, and not try to help them improve on all weak areas.
These are two different examples feedback loops I use. Both seem to work based on the purpose, the teacher, and the situation. I'd love to hear how you give feedback as a coach.