By Teachers, For Teachers
When I think about how schools mentor and "grade" teachers, it always surprises me that we seem to ignore the recognized assessment strategies we use for students. What good is an observation without feedback and follow-up?
My advice to administrators is to think like teachers as they make their rounds from classroom to classroom.
I recently helped my school leaders create a survey designed to get feedback from teachers about their leadership styles as well as several initiatives currently running in the building. Results showed the staff overall feels positive about administration and their worth (with the exception of one disgruntled respondent who used the following characteristics “worthless,” “waste of space ”and“ complete waste of space”).
Out of the survey also came more constructive criticism, some of which the leadership team is already addressing. A popular comment among several teachers was that they want feedback after informal observations without having to track down the observer themselves to get the information.
Real-time Feedback from Observations
As a result, the administration at my school has proposed a new protocol which would guarantee teachers quick and more consistent feedback based on informal observations and walk-throughs. With this adapted protocol, administrators must email the teacher of the classroom they visit the same day (if not during the visit through their fancy new iPads) with one or two suggestions for improvement – it’s the same idea as leaving a post-it on the desk but everyone can be held more accountable because a record is built online. This “real-time feedback” model was not born at my school but I commend those who birthed it elsewhere.
I’m a teacher who has gotten little feedback over the years – one of the unintended disadvantages of not having an out of control classroom. I will occasionally have an administrator pop in with a visitor and my class during administrative rounds when they stroll through the entire school collecting qualitative data, but I never get any feedback--positive or negative.
Last year, I got feedback once for about 15 minutes – my AP quickly rattled off suggestions and I could hardly jot them all down. The shame was that some of them were quite insightful but got lost in the flood. I felt similar to students who get overwhelmed when an essay comes back and the teacher has written more than they originally wrote themselves. The feedback was well-intended but ineffective.
Teacher Assessment Advice for Admin
My advice to administrators is to give one to three simple suggestions and a commitment to follow-up on progress check. This is similar to my approach when giving suggestions to students on their papers. My students get no more than three next steps for their drafts – one of which is to usually to use “The Edit Sheet”. They dislike this editing tool because it forces them to make their own grammar corrections based on a cryptic set of circles and numbers sprinkled among their paragraphs. Most of them won’t get a passing grade until another draft is completed. My belief is what is the worth in feedback if no one follows up?
Our school has seen the feedback begin to make some movements by school leaders taking action after the survey, but we must too follow up if this proposed model does not come to fruition. Another anonymous survey won’t be given out until the end of the year. Someone, perhaps even our masked disgruntled workmate, may have to go knocking on admin’s door.
What are your suggestions for making administrative feedback effective? Share in the comments section!