January 20, 2017

How to Build a Culture of Feedback in 2017

The beginning of a new year is a natural time for both personal and professional reflection. For educational leaders, this might mean taking a break from day-to-day management tasks to focus on big questions such as, “What sort of culture do I want to create in my school or district?”

In an educational landscape where only 30% of teachers say they receive timely and meaningful feedback, I would suggest that more leaders should make a concerted and ongoing effort to build a culture of feedback. As I shared at a recent EdSurge Summit, this sort of cultural shift can benefit every part of a district, but for this post I’m going to focus on providing feedback for teachers.

Don-EdSurge.jpgThe simple fact is that most teachers want more and better feedback than they’re currently getting. A yearly meeting with a principal or instructional coach that ends with a pat on the back and a “good job” just isn’t enough. Teachers want feedback based on what happens in their classrooms—without the intrusive presence of an observer sitting in the back of the class taking notes.

To give teachers frequent and actionable feedback, I suggest that schools learn a lesson from athletes. Football coaches don’t give feedback based on notes that they took while watching a practice—they sit with their players and watch video together. Video gives everyone an objective place to start the feedback process, captures moments that both players and coaches might have missed, and can be reviewed over and over.

And video has been proven to work in education. According to data gathered by Harvard’s Best Foot Forward Project, when video was used in the teacher observation process:

1. Educators reported more fair and productive observations.
2. Administrators had more convenient schedules.
3. Teachers more quickly overcame any hesitation with technology.
4. More observations were conducted. On average, teachers recorded 13 lessons and received approximately three formal and two informal     observations.
5. Teachers were more self-reflective.

This last point is absolutely vital, because one concern that I sometimes hear about video in the classroom is that teachers will resist being filmed—or might submit only their best lessons for review. In this study, though, teachers who selected to videotape themselves found the feedback process fairer and more useful overall. By filming themselves and choosing which lessons to share, they became collaborators in their own professional development. And, as the authors of the study put it, “Allowing teachers to choose which lessons to submit did not get in the way of identifying those who were struggling.”

So if part of your plan for 2017 is to establish trust between teachers and district leaders, I suggest giving video a try. Because when teachers get detailed, objective feedback that helps them improve their practice, students win.

Learn more about how our team can help you build a culture of feedback—schedule a demo or visit with us at the SoCal EdSurge Summit in Riverside, CA on January 27-28, 2017.


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