Classroom walkthroughs serve multiple purposes. Whereas the main motivation is to make sure that teachers are performing up to state and district-mandated standards, classroom walkthroughs also exist to guide teachers’ professional development. Giving teachers feedback after observations can inspire and motivate them to improve their skills, and identify key areas where they could improve their performance.
If you have ever been on the receiving end of poor feedback, then you know how demotivating and frustrating it can be. Poorly focused feedback is not only not useful, but it can also be actively harmful as it might discourage teachers without providing actionable guidance on what they can do better. This fact is true not only in the realm of teaching but in every area where observational feedback is required.
According to many educational experts, providing positive observational feedback is one of the best ways to ensure that teachers will have a positive impact on student outcomes. With that in mind, here are 3 of the best ways to provide immediate feedback to a teacher after performing a classroom observation.
1. Use Language That Motivates
Giving feedback is much more than just providing an objective description of what you observed in the classroom. Proper feedback also needs to be structured in a language and form that makes clear needs for improvement and incentivizes teachers to make that improvement. As you might expect, not all teachers handle criticism well. More often than not, pure criticism is a hindrance because it does not provide any actionable guidance on what can be done better,
Interestingly enough, praising language on its own can also be a bad thing. When language is purely praise without any descriptive content, it does not actually tell someone about what it is they did that was successful.
You can switch up the pronouns you use when giving specific types of feedback. For example, praise should be given in the first person, such as “I like how you engage students with the assignment.” When picking out positive aspects of instruction, switch to the second person to highlight the positives: “You properly engaged student attention throughout the entire lesson.
When pointing out room for improvement, it is important to use third-person descriptive content. For example, “The students packed up their classroom belongings before the homework assignment was explained.” It is important to give descriptive accounts when pointing out room for improvement as this tells the teacher something concrete about what they did and how they can improve. Ideally, you should be offering data-based feedback that addresses any gaps in teacher self-perception. Describing matter-of-fact happenings in the classroom makes it more clear exactly where the teacher can improve their efforts and what they can do to improve.
2. Give Feedback Directly After the Class
States and districts have various requirements about when administrators must provide teachers with feedback on their performance. Some online evaluation tools make that information immediately available while most districts prefer that observers give feedback immediately after the class has concluded.
Timeliness is an important factor in making sure that teachers get actionable feedback. If administrators wait too long, then the lesson will not be as fresh in the teacher’s mind so they are less likely to remember which aspects of instruction the feedback is commenting on. Besides, teachers will appreciate the fact that you are taking time out of your schedule to provide immediate feedback rather than waiting until some indeterminate time in the future.
So if you are performing a classroom observation walkthrough, try to get notes to teachers within 24 hours of the observation. There are a few ways you can do this. One method is to meet with the teacher in person directly after the lesson and consult with them. Alternatively, you can send a preliminary feedback report to prime them for a future in-person discussion of the observation. No matter which method you choose, you should always provide teacher feedback in person. This allows the teacher to take an active role in the feedback process and allows you to better discuss your findings. Additionally, providing feedback in person is just better for teacher morale in the long-run.
You should never take more than 2 days to provide feedback and you should not leave feedback in a purely written form. Providing written notes initially as a means to open up the conversation is a good idea but it must be followed up with an in-person discussion.
3. Relate Observations to Objectives and Standards
It is one thing to just provide a single data point of observation. But it is quite another to show how that observation fits into state or district-mandated standards of teaching. Focusing on pre-existing standards not only gives you a way to structure how you give feedback but should also be the basis from which you make observations. Focusing on existing standards and objectives allows you to foster a sense of immediate progress, especially if it builds off the previous observation session.
This method builds off the fundamental purpose of what observation is supposed to achieve. Classroom observation has a purpose and that purpose is to demonstrate to teachers where they can improve and upon which metrics. Be clear about your objectives when giving feedback. What exactly do you want your teachers to achieve and how does your feedback motivate them to improve?
Teacher feedback is an important part of professional development. Teacher feedback and also help create a positive environment that ensures your teachers will flourish. Lack of good feedback is one of the highest predictors of job dissatisfaction; this fact is true in teaching and in pretty much every other employment field.
Teacher feedback should be focused on professional development. To that end, it is instructive to integrate opportunities for professional development when giving feedback after a classroom observation. Consistent feedback is the key to proper teacher development and the formation of a positive working environment for both educators and administrators.