Craftsmanship, Feedback, and Reflection (Part 2) - Steve Barkley

Craftsmanship, Feedback, and Reflection (Part 2)

In part 1 of this blog, I explored the concepts of craftsmanship and reflection that were generated from viewing a video from Learning Pioneers that featured a conversation with Ron Berger and Trevor MacKenzie. As I listened to their conversation that mostly focused on feedback, reflection, and craftsmanship for students, I found myself continually reflecting on how the same points they raised applied to instructional coaches and school leaders planning for teachers.

In this blog I’ll focus on feedback as a component of reflection and how they connect to the practices of craftspeople. Here are some of Ron’s and Trevor’s insights around feedback that triggered my thinking.

Ron: “Critique is feedback and most of the time should be specifically identifying what they are doing well and some of the time it can be pushes. 90% of the critique should be positive. Mostly it endorses what is appreciated.”

Trevor: “Learning is communication. It’s found in conferring and in opportunities for feedback with one another. Feedback can be any nudges, guidance, protocols, and experiences that encourage students to be reflective. A culture of feedback.”

Both Ron and Trevor stated the need to model and teach students how to critique… to provide feedback that is thoughtful, kind, helpful, and specific. They shared how that was illustrated in the video Austin’s Butterfly.

Feedback in block letters

A culture of feedback is needed to have a culture of coaching. The first book that I wrote about coaching was titled, Quality Teaching in a Culture of Coaching. The title was purposeful as I wanted to communicate that coaching was not merely an isolated activity of observation and feedback, but the way a team of educators “do business.” When a coaching culture is present, teachers use coaching input from colleagues to answer questions, solve problems, internalize new practices, and create innovations.

A post from the Center for Creative Leadership identifies that, ”A coaching culture enables radical organizational transformation by building conversational and coaching skills on a daily basis. A coaching culture creates a climate where people can freely:

  • Give and receive feedback;
  • Support and stretch each other’s thinking;
  • Challenge each other with support, and stress-test ideas where appropriate;
  • Engage in development conversations that are short in length, but strong in impact.

In short, a better culture starts with better conversations.”

Feedback as conversation is reinforced in Joellen Killion’s writing in Four Common Misconceptions about Feedback: Feedback is a process not a product. The purpose of the feedback process is to promote growth. The receiver of the feedback wants to be part of the process that helps them understand how to improve.

Feedback from walkthroughs is one of the areas that Justin Baeder explores in his webinar, The Keystone Habit: Leading Improvement with Classroom Walkthroughs.  

“Administrators need to recognize that there is not a need to tell teachers what to do differently. The forms that are often required as a follow up to walkthroughs serve more as documentation that the observation occurred than to provide quality feedback. Conversation should be the product of a walkthrough. Conversation should be the goal!”

Consider how the concepts of craftsmanship, reflection and feed back might be used to explore the coaching conversations occurring in your school community.

Craftsmanship --> Feedback --> Reflection

From my earliest work in coaching, I have been promoting that one of the rewards of coaching is celebration. Years ago, I suggested that teachers build celebrations of perseverance into their classrooms. When a student or students persevered and succeeded, the teacher would throw a 30-90 second celebration. (High-Five, Class Cheer, Teacher Dance). The purpose is to reinforce for students that effort and perseverance generated success. I realized that most teachers, working in isolation, never get the opportunity to celebrate their effort and perseverance with a colleague who appreciates what they just accomplished. Coaching is an opportunity for that shared celebration.

A search for a way of defining craftsmanship led me to the following from Prasad Akella:

“Craftsmanship. By definition, it means portraying skill at something – carving wood, sculpting clay, welding metal. But craftsmanship implies something more than skill; it implies care, mastery, accountability for the item being created. It’s about the spirit with which something is created. When you have a craftsman-like mentality, you have pride in your work – and the quality of your output will likely be high.”

As teacher and administrator leaders, planning for the end of this school year and the start of the next, consider how you are celebrating teaching and learning craftsmanship. What will you put into practice to increase the culture of feedback and reflection?

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