Early Feedback | Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud Blog

Early Feedback

In a previous blog, I shared the work of Randy Conley and Drea Zigarmi that identified twelve factors of employee work passion (EWP) categorized as organizational, job, and relationship factors. (You can find the twelve here.) In that blog I explored two factors that I believe deserve attention as leaders plan for the opening of school interactions with staff and as teachers plan for creating classroom culture; Autonomy and Collaboration.

Another important factor on the list was feedback.

“The extent to which individuals receive adequate feedback on performance and are recognized for improvements and ideas.”

A blog titled, The importance of early feedback for new employees, lists three benefits. Early feedback:

  • Makes one feel valued.
  • Supports an open and honest culture.
  • Accelerates productivity.

Those would all be important as a teacher thinks about building the learning culture of a classroom. How can students receive recognition for effort and learning strategies they are employing prior to feedback on performance or outcome? What tasks might students engage in very early where the opportunity for such feedback is created?

I imagine a challenging task for a group to create and design a solution to a problem like keeping an egg from breaking on a fall from the table using only the materials that the teacher provided. (More examples here.) The observant teacher could be providing positive feedback as she observed students brainstorming ideas, praising each other, listening to alternative ideas, experimenting in small steps, and perhaps most importantly laughing at their own failures and then persevering to try again. This feedback would be highlighting critical success strategies that will be reinforced throughout the year.

“To keep improving how we teach, we must give more attention to the interplay between the science of teaching—pedagogy—and the art of teaching, which deals with the unique way a teacher transforms students to reach their potential. A teacher must be anchored in pedagogy and blend imagination, creativity, and inspiration into the teaching and learning process to ignite a passion for learning in students.”
— Peyton Williams Jr.

Teachers requesting feedback from their students is great modeling. It can send a strong message that the teacher is determined to do everything possible to generate the greatest student success. Viktor Nordmark suggests three questions that I could imagine a teacher using at the end of the first week of school.

  1. What should the teacher start doing?
  2. What should the teacher stop doing?
  3. What should the teacher continue doing?

How about feedback to teachers?

I frequently find that instructional coaches see the opening weeks of school as a time that observations in classroom or coaching cycles are inappropriate. Even in schools where peer coaching has been a common practice, people identify the first weeks of school as “needing time to settle in” before entering each other’s classrooms. I believe that the outcomes that teachers are seeking during opening days/weeks of school are of extreme importance and thus worthy of collegial focus and coaching.

In an earlier blog on relationships, I posted these thoughts:

Looking at the start of a school year, how do school leaders communicate expectations for building positive relationships with students? Building relationships takes some time commitment. What decisions would you desire teachers to be making concerning their use of time with students during the first week of school? What would you want to observe doing walk-throughs during the first week of school? What messages do you want students hearing? If you interviewed students several days into the school year, what perceptions of teachers would you hope they share with you?

time for feedback

Consider having instructional coaches offer to observe and provide feedback to teachers during the first week of school. In pre-conferences have teachers describe the student experiences they wish to generate during these opening days. What are they hoping to hear and see from students? What specific teacher actions do they believe are critical to get the desired student engagement? What focus would they like the coach to have in gathering feedback valuable to the teacher?

What kind of feedback can teachers receive during the open weeks of school that helps you communicate a desired learning culture?

I am currently engaged with a high school administrative team that has me interviewing 15 staff members prior to the start of the school year to gather feedback for the three administrators on their individual and collective leadership strengths and areas for development. Just being interviewed will communicate a strong belief and culture. As these administrators share their learning and plans from the experience, they will create a model that teachers can follow with their students.

Here is a podcast interview with two administrators who sought feedback in a similar fashion.

What might you communicate with early feedback?


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