Evaluations are a part of the teaching world and, good or bad, they’re here to stay. Ideally, their purpose is to provide meaningful feedback that allows a teacher to reflect and grow as an educator. Over the years, I’ve experienced many different feedback approaches. Some helped me grow as an educator. Others made me feel bad about myself as a teacher or left me wondering exactly what lesson the evaluator was watching. I’ve narrowed down the important aspects of feedback to four areas that every evaluator should consider when speaking with a teacher after an evaluation.
1. Be Specific
An evaluator must provide specific feedback on aspects of the class that went well or that need work. Generalized statements won’t help a teacher grow. If a specific part of a lesson seemed to engage the students deeply, that part should be noted and shared. If the evaluator saw an area where a teacher needs to grow, he or she should take detailed notes on what happened, how the teacher addressed it, and anything else that can help the teacher reflect on that area. The other set of eyes in the classroom is providing a perspective which would be worthless without detailed feedback. While the evaluator might be looking for many different things in a classroom, certain specific items should jump out and allow for detailed comments that can form the basis of a discussion. Teachers want to grow and improve, and they can only do that through detailed feedback.
2. Be Timely
Timeliness is crucial for feedback. Waiting weeks between an observation and feedback makes the feedback almost pointless. The observation itself and the post-observation meeting should be scheduled within the same 72-hour period. This gives the teacher time to reflect on the lesson and the evaluator time to organize his or her observations. Delayed feedback doesn’t support teacher growth. Imagine if you waited weeks after an assessment before providing a student with any feedback. The student might continue to make the same mistakes until hearing your feedback. We wouldn’t accept that for students, and neither should we accept it for educators. With a little planning, timely feedback can easily be made part of the evaluation process.
3. Be Positive
Evaluations should never be seen as a “gotcha” situation. Sadly, this is how too many teachers feel when an administrator comes by to observe their classroom. Evaluations need to be focused on the teacher’s long-term growth. They should recognize where the teacher excels as well as identifying opportunities to grow. No teacher is perfect, but focusing only on the negative can damage any teacher’s morale. They should leave a post-evaluation meeting feeling good about what they’re doing and with clear ideas about how they can improve.
4. Be Supportive
Teachers should feel supported before, during, and after any evaluation. The feedback provided should demonstrate an understanding of what the teacher tried to accomplish in the class, what worked well, what can be improved going forward, and most importantly, what type of support the school will offer to facilitate those improvements. Telling a teacher that he or she needs to improve without offering support for those improvements is a recipe for failure. If the teacher feels supported to make the recommended changes, it’s far more likely that the changes will happen.
One of the most important parts of teaching is reflecting on our practice to see where we can improve. Feedback is a key part of reflection. In addition to valuing our own perspective, the input from a trained observer can help us look at a lesson with fresh eyes for what can be improved. Feedback is integral to any school or organization dedicated to supporting employee growth. Focusing on the four aspects described here will help ensure that feedback becomes a welcome part of your institutional practice.