Avoid these 5 ways of giving teachers terrible feedback after a classroom observation

Samantha James

Samantha James

January 25, 2023

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Giving feedback is hard. It’s even harder when you’re giving feedback to a colleague about their teaching. No one wants to be the bearer of bad news, but sometimes it needs to be done. Here are 5 ways to give terrible feedback that will guaranteed to make the recipient feel defensive and leave them feeling worse than when they started.

1. Be vague and nonspecific

When you’re giving feedback, it’s important to be as specific as possible. This way, the teacher knows exactly what they need to work on and can take concrete steps to improve. However, if you’re feeling lazy or don’t really know what you want to say, you can always fall back on being vague. “I noticed that your students were off-task today” or “I didn’t love the way you handled that transition” are both examples of nonspecific feedback that don’t really tell the teacher anything useful.

2. Use generalizations and absolutes

Another easy way to make your feedback terrible is to use generalizations and absolutes. For example, instead of saying “I noticed that a few students were off-task during your lesson,” you could say “Your students are always off-task.” This might feel like an easy way to make your point, but it’s actually quite harmful. Generalizations and absolutes immediately put the teacher on the defensive, and they’re more likely to tune out any constructive criticism you have after that.

3. Compare them to other teachers

Comparing the teacher you’re observing to other teachers is a surefire way to make them feel terrible. Instead of focusing on the positive things they’re doing, you’re pointing out all the ways they don’t measure up to their colleagues. This is not only unhelpful, but it’s also incredibly demoralizing. The teacher you’re observing is likely already comparing themselves to other teachers, and they don’t need you to do it for them.

4. Focus on everything they’re doing wrong

It’s important to give both positive and negative feedback, but if you want to make sure your feedback is terrible, focus solely on the negative. This will leave the teacher feeling overwhelmed and hopeless, and they’ll be less likely to take any of your suggestions seriously. On the other hand, if you want your feedback to be helpful, try starting with one or two positive things before moving on to areas of improvement.

5. Wait until the end of the observation

If you really want to make sure your feedback doesn’t land well, wait until the very end of the observation to give it. The teacher will have already spent an hour or more worrying about what you thought of their lesson, and by waiting until the end, you’re just prolonging their anxiety unnecessarily. Plus, if there’s something they could have changed during the lesson (like redirecting off-task students), it’s too late by then! Feedback should be given in real-time so that the teacher can actually do something with it.

Giving feedback is hard enough without having to worry about making it terrible. However, if you follow these five simple tips, you can guarantee that your feedback will fall flat every time. So next time you need to give someone some constructive criticism, remember: vagueness is your friend! Good luck!