I’ve been in education for over two decades, and for the last 10 years, I’ve been doing regular classroom walkthroughs as a principal. In that time, I’ve given a lot of feedback to teachers—both positive and constructive. And I’ve learned a lot about what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to giving feedback that leads to real change. If you’re an educational leader who gives feedback to teachers, here are some lessons I’ve learned that might be helpful to you.
1. Avoid giving too much feedback at once.
It can be tempting when you see something you want to change, to blurt out all the things you think need to be fixed. But this isn’t helpful for anyone. When teachers are bombarded with too much feedback at once, they get overwhelmed and tune out. It’s important to be selective and focus on the most important things.
2. Be specific.
When you do give feedback, make sure it is specific. For example, don’t just say, “Your lesson was too long.” Say “I noticed that your lesson went over by 10 minutes today. In the future, try to keep your lessons within the allotted time so that students have enough time to transition between classes and don’t get too restless.”
3. Use “I statements.”
When giving feedback, use “I statements” rather than “you statements.” For example, instead of saying “You need to be more organized,” try “I noticed that your materials were not as well-organized as they could be. I suggest…” This will help the teacher feel like you are giving them suggestions rather than ordering them around.
4. Avoid using negative words.
Negative words like “don’t, won’t, can’t, shouldn��t” put people on the defensive and make them less likely to listen to what you have to say. For example, instead of saying “Don’t forget to do XYZ next time,” try “In the future, remember to do XYZ…” It may seem like a small change, but it can make a big difference in how the teacher receives your feedback.
5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
It can be easy to jump to conclusions when you see something happening in a classroom that you disagree with—but it’s important to remember that there may be a reason for it that you don’t know about yet. When you see something that concerns you, take a step back and ask the teacher about it before making any assumptions or giving feedback. Chances are, there is a perfectly good explanation for what you saw—and if there isn��t, you gave the teacher the benefit of the doubt before offering your input!
Giving feedback is an important part of being an educational leader—but it’s not always easy to do it effectively. These are some lessons I’ve learned from my own experience giving feedback to teachers after classroom walkthroughs that might be helpful for other educational leaders who find themselves in similar situations.