What are best practices that coaches should apply when providing meaningful feedback to educators during professional learning?
For module 3, I am continuing to explore professional learning, and my research focuses on indicator 5b from ISTE Coaching Standard 5: Professional Learning Facilitator. As I researched to understand best practices when providing feedback, I first sought to explore why feedback in professional learning is important to begin with. I then thought about the experiences of both those giving and receiving feedback, and how to improve the feedback process. In order for feedback to be meaningful and effective, there must first be a foundation of trust established. When I reflect on my own experiences with feedback, I am most receptive to feedback from those who I respect, trust, and whose opinion I value. It is important to recognize that a trusting relationship must be established before coaches can explore the ways of improving meaningful feedback that I outline below.
ISTE Standard 5: Professional Learning Facilitator
b. Build the capacity of educators, leaders, and instructional teams to put the ISTE Standards into practice by facilitating active learning and providing meaningful feedback.
Feedback is an important part of learning. Whenever we try to learn new skills or acquire new knowledge, we seek feedback to gain information on how we are applying the skills and ways to refine our application. This is especially true when considering professional learning. According to Linda Darling-Hammond, Maria E. Hyler, and Madelyn Gardner (2017), “High-quality professional learning frequently provides built-in time for teachers to think about, receive input on, and make changes to their practice by facilitating reflection and soliciting feedback” (n.p.) We often desire to receive feedback from others, and in teaching, it is no different. Teachers look for feedback on performance from students, parents, and administration. Feedback, however, can be difficult to give and even more challenging to receive. Think about a time when you had a negative response to feedback? How about a positive one? What were the differences between those two experiences? While feedback is a vital component of improving teaching and learning, for feedback to be meaningful and effective it must be delivered with care, intention, and purpose.
Figure 1 below is a model from The Power of Feedback by John Hattie and Helen Timperley (2007) showing how feedback can be used to enhance learning. What I especially like about this model, is its focus on the “three feedback questions.” Hattie and Timperley (2007) state that in order for feedback to be effective, it must focus on these three questions, “Where am I going? How am I going? Where to next?” (p. 88). Hattie and Timperley also like to think about these three questions as, “feed up, feed back, and feed forward.” (p.88). For learning coaches working to provide effective feedback to teachers, I believe it is essential for feedback to be focused on these three components. As I continued my research to find suggestions for coaches when providing feedback, I approached this research through the lens of these three guiding questions.
Ways to Improve Meaningful Feedback
Orient Towards Goals
In alignment with Hattie and Timperley’s idea of “feed forward,” feedback is most effective and meaningful when coaches orient feedback towards targeted growth goals teachers have identified. When engaging in professional learning, teachers should work to identify goals they have for implementing the new knowledge they’ve gained and improving student learning. When it comes to providing feedback, coaches should refer back to these goals and outline feedback that is actionable. According to Shawn Clark and Abbey Duggins (2015) “…feedback, in order to be quality, must go beyond what is working and what needs refining and result in thinking about how to improve. One goal of feedback is to elicit a cognitive response, not an emotional one” (p. 10). Delivering feedback that is goal-oriented and objective, can be done most effectively when partnered with a rubric or coaching plan that both the coach and teacher are familiar with.
Concrete and Specific
While Marianne Stenger (2014) notes that affirmation is an important part of the feedback process, and can be vital when initially establishing trust, coaches should also think intentionally about feedback being concrete and specific. When feedback is directed towards something specific, it provides clarity and direction for the individual. Hattie and Timperley (2007) remind us that, “To be effective, feedback needs to be clear, purposeful, meaningful, and compatible with students’ prior knowledge and to provide logical connections” (p. 104). Being concrete and specific also means starting small. Elena Aguilar (2016) explains, “We need to share one specific thing that we observed and one thing that the teacher can do to change” (n.p.). This is similar to best practices we apply when giving our students feedback. The meaningful impact of feedback for teachers is also far greater when the focus is on one specific skill or area of growth. Once feedback has been targeted towards one area, coaches can then build on this feedback over time and/or transition to another area.
Make it Timely
The Graide Network (2019) states that, “When feedback isn’t timely, students are disengaged and demotivated. As a teacher, your job is to build in regular feedback loops into your practice so that students get effective feedback throughout the year” (n.p.). This same approach of developing a feedback loop applies to coaches when providing feedback to teachers. Following up in a timely manner after professional learning emphasizes the importance of the PD and is an opportunity to revisit recently developed learning goals. Making feedback timely provides teachers some space to process and apply the professional learning, but also gives an opportunity to clarify and/or ask questions to follow-up on learning concepts. It is important for coaches to know their teachers and understand what level of timeliness and follow-up works for each individual. For some, following-up with feedback soon after professional learning may foster negative feedback feelings. As Marianne Stenger (2014) points out, “If learners feel that they are being too closely monitored, they might become nervous or self-conscious, and as a result, disengaged from learning” (n.p.). While this is an important thing to consider, it is often most helpful for coaches to provide feedback that is timely and then adjust accordingly when necessary.
Consistent and Constant
Similar to feedback being timely, coaches should also provide feedback that is consistent and constant. When it comes to feedback being constant, Education First (2015) explains that, “…ongoing feedback is important for teachers to sustain their growth and development and helps build a supportive culture where feedback is normal and expected” (p. 6). Too often feedback is provided and then not follow-up on again. When providing meaningful feedback that is constant, it is essential that coaches regularly check-in regarding feedback to see how it is being implemented, continue conversations, and support the growth towards other identified goals. For feedback to be meaningful, it is vital that feedback also be consistent. Like I mentioned above in making feedback goal-oriented, feedback can be effective when coaches use consistent rubrics, coaching tools, and planning sheets. Establishing clear, consistent expectations, language, and frameworks, allow for the feedback experience to be consistent across a school. While the focus of feedback provided will be unique to each individual, feedback becomes meaningful when the feedback process is consistent and constant.
Seek Feedback in Return
One of the most important ways coaches can provide meaningful feedback is by seeking feedback in return. Coaches grow in the effectiveness of the feedback they provide to others, by receiving feedback from those they coach. As Brene Brown (2014) explains, “Feedback should be as vulnerable for the person giving it as the person receiving it” (n.p.). She goes on to add that, “You’re ready to give feedback when you’re ready to sit next to the person, not across from them. You’re ready to put the problem, not between you, but in front of both of you.” (n.p.). These words by Brene Brown remind coaches of their role in the process of providing feedback to teachers. In order for feedback to be most meaningful to teachers, coaches must first foster an environment where feedback is given and received by both parties. Before feedback can be received and applied, there must first be trust. Coaches can seek feedback in a variety of venues (conversation, questionnaires, follow-up surveys, etc) to model vulnerability and establish a culture where feedback from all stakeholders is given and received.
What has made receiving feedback a positive experience for you? As coaches, what are effective ways you provide feedback to others? Please share your thoughts and experiences, as well as any feedback or questions you have, in the comment section below.
7 steps to effective feedback. (2013, January 29). Retrieved February 19, 2021, from http://connectedprincipals.com/archives/6335
Aguilar, E. (2018, March 22). Common mistakes when giving feedback. Retrieved February 19, 2021, from https://brightmorningteam.com/2016/02/common-mistakes-when-giving-feedback/
Clark, S. B., Duggins, A. S., & Robbins, P. (2016). Using quality feedback to guide professional learning: A framework for instructional leaders. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin. doi:https://us.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-assets/72073_book_item_72073.pdf
Darling-Hammond, L., Hyler, M. E., & Gardner, M. (n.d.). Effective teacher professional development. Retrieved February 19, 2021, from https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/effective-teacher-professional-development-brief
Finley, T.B.. (n.d.). Feedback Strategies for Coaches and Administrators. [PDF]. Retrieved February 19, 2021 from https://visiblybetter.cepr.harvard.edu/files/visibly-better/files/instructional-feedback-guidebook.pdf
Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81-112. Retrieved from https://ezproxy.spu.edu/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.ezproxy.spu.edu/scholarly-journals/power-feedback/docview/214113991/se-2?accountid=2202
JotForm. (2019, May 10). Professional development for teachers: Feedback forms matter. Retrieved February 18, 2021, from https://stories.jotform.com/professional-development-for-teachers-feedback-forms-matter-c4aed06ec0cb
Montini, L. (2014, October 16). Brene Brown: 2 things great leaders do when they give feedback. Retrieved February 18, 2021, from https://www.inc.com/laura-montini/brene-brown-why-great-feedback-can-t-be-scripted.html
Putting the 7 hallmarks of effective feedback to work in your classroom. (2020, November 04). Retrieved February 20, 2021, from https://www.thegraidenetwork.com/blog-all/2019/7/15/putting-the-7-hallmarks-of-effective-feedback-to-work-in-your-classroom
Stenger, M. (2014, August 06). 5 research-based tips for providing students with meaningful feedback. Retrieved February 17, 2021, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/tips-providing-students-meaningful-feedback-marianne-stenger