Seeking Authentic Feedback to Improve Practice

We cannot improve what we aren't aware of, so we seek feedback to support our continuous improvement
27 teachers like this strategy

About This Strategy

Making the commitment to ask for, and listen to, feedback from the school community (teachers, students, and families)  can transform your work, attitude, and the success of your initiatives. This strategy guides you in creating good questions, explains when and why to seek feedback, and provides tools to simplify the collection of feedback. Seeking authentic feedback can mean the difference between everyone rowing in the same direction, or everyone rowing in different directions, due to the knowledge you'll have of how you're doing and the informed support of those involved.

Implementation Steps

15 minutes
  1. Rethink what feedback means. Don't skip this step. If we want to create a rich feedback culture, we need to check our own thinking first. Check out the Harvard Business article in the resources section below to learn about the key elements of feedback culture.

  2. Make a list of places to build feedback into your normal routine. This not only makes receiving feedback doable, it creates change within you, before you seek change in others. Here are some ways to elicit feedback:

    • You are a teacher, and you often use exit tickets to assess student learning. Add a question or two seeking feedback about the lesson, students' learning experiences, or what they learned. Routinely providing an open-ended question inviting students to tell you whatever they think you should know about them, their learning, and their lives is a powerful addition to academic routines. 

    • You are a coach, and you try to drop in and observe teachers as often as possible. Ask a teacher you coach to give you feedback on how you could better support them, what you could do differently, improvements you could make, and requests for what they would like to focus on.

    • You are in any role within the school, and need to gather information. For example, if you are coordinating a winter reading kickoff event, you could ask for help, solicit suggestions to improve the event, check understanding of the purpose of the event, and so on.

  3. Build on your feedback routine to assist other members of the learning community to join in using this best practice.

    • First, share your own model, experience, and learnings with eliciting feedback.

    • Next, provide a structure to support the mechanics of eliciting feedback. For example, if you are suggesting a survey using Google Forms, create a template that others can duplicate.

    • Facilitate the collaborative writing of feedback questions, rather than providing the questions. This creates ownership. Some facilitation moves:

      • What are some things we could learn from each other?

      • Are there any areas in which you would like to grow?

      • Who would we want feedback from? Why? Potentially a great place would be to start by asking students for feedback. Even the youngest students can give feedback. See resources in the Student Perception Surveys section for surveys.

      • What are the mechanics? With surveys you might ask, "How can we integrate survey questions into other routines?" What are other means besides surveys (for example, adding one question to an exit ticket)?

      • How do we respond to feedback to demonstrate that it is valued? (For example, "noticing" that many students shared how much they liked a specific activity, and indicating that you will use it more often.)

    • Provide time to create a basic survey tool or embed feedback requests into classroom routines.

  4. Support the ongoing feedback system by:

    • offering to help (You could ask, "Is there anything I can do to assist you in getting this done?")

    • asking those who try eliciting feedback to share their experience and how they are responding to feedback they received

    • continuing to elicit feedback yourself, and act upon it

    • implementing some school-wide feedback systems, such as quarterly student and teacher surveys, a suggestion box, or supports for student voice such as student leadership structures 

Professional Learning Workshop Feedback

Ask for feedback anytime professional learning is offered to a group of teachers. Be specific in your questions, and if possible keep the request anonymous (i.e. survey). Acknowledge the feedback, and let the community know how it is informing your work. If you are holding a multi-day professional learning experience, survey for feedback on a daily basis, review the data, and adjust your practice accordingly. Each following day, acknowledge the feedback and describe your resulting adjustments at the start of the day. See the Tech Tools section below for an efficient digital means to quickly create and disseminate surveys to aggregate the data.

Coaching Feedback: In Person Feedback and Survey Feedback

Make it a routine, ongoing practice to collect feedback on your coaching. There are three ways to make this collection meaningful:

  1. Ask for feedback face-to-face. At the close of a coaching conversation, ask:
    • Do you have any concerns?

    • Do you have any questions?

    • Have I met your needs?  

    • What else can I do to support you? 

  2. Once a month, ask for feedback from all of the teachers you coach by sending out a survey (like this one) requesting feedback. Consider making the survey anonymous to ensure honesty. (See the Tech Tools section for an efficient digital means to quickly create and disseminate surveys and to aggregate the data.) Consider questions like: 

    • What has been most helpful about the coaching you've received?

    • What has been least helpful about the coaching you've received?

    • What would improve the quality/impact of the coaching you receive? 

    • What else could your coach do to support your teaching? 

  3. Ask for feedback following any organized professional learning (see the Professional Learning Workshop Feedback section).

  4. After you have received feedback, be sure to share your takeaways from the feedback and how you will be implementing the suggestions you received. 

Student Feedback: All-School and Individual Classrooms

Make it a routine, ongoing practice to collect feedback on students' learning experience both as a school leader and as a classroom teacher.

Implementation steps:

  1. Create a survey of reasonable length for the age of the student. In the resources below are examples of surveys for all grade levels.

  2. Explain the purpose for the survey to the students.

  3. Model how to interact with the survey tools.

  4. Administer the survey.

  5. If appropriate, share back with students some of the key findings from the survey and how you will be acting on that feedback. 

Collegial Informal Lesson Feedback

Building the norms and expectations for collaborative feedback among colleagues is an important element of highly effective professional learning experiences. Effective collegial feedback is based on evidence (credible), and actionable (specific).

Implementation steps:

  1. Prepare and formulate your thinking prior to giving feedback. Use your notes to ground any feedback in student-centered evidence and use specific examples from what you observed. 

  2. Avoid giving a laundry list of feedback. Based on your notes, pick one major trend or takeaway. See the coach tips below to read an example.

  3. Before giving feedback, ask questions.

    • How do you think the lesson went?

    • Is there anything that you might do differently now that you've taught it?

  4. When sharing feedback, use "we" or "our" instead of "you" or "I". Instead of, "How could you plan this lesson to …?," try "How could this lesson be planned to …?"

  5. Check in with your colleague on how the feedback felt. Consider asking, "Was this helpful? Is there anything I can do to support you with next steps?" Yes, it's okay to ask for feedback on your feedback!

Tech Tools

Google Forms

  1. Google Forms are an easy way to gather (form) and aggregate (sheet) information. Response to a Google Form document can be aggregated, sorted, and saved in a Google Sheet.

  2. How this tech tool supports this strategy:

    • Google Forms are an efficient tool to use for surveys. This video walks through the steps to create, send, and collect data using a Google Form.

ZipGrade

  1. ZipGrade turns your phone or tablet into an optical grading machine similar to a Scantron. It reads free-to-download answer sheets in multiple sizes.

  2. How this tech tool supports this strategy:

    • The flexible length of the variety of free bubble sheets makes this an easy to use format for surveys. The data is immediately given to the teacher.

Coach Tips

Cheryl Belknap
BetterLesson Instructional Coach

When giving feedback, it is more effective to identify a trend rather than give a laundry list of specific examples.

  1. For example, during an observation you note repeatedly that students are disengaged.
  2. Instead of telling the teacher every time you saw a student disengage, try to identify the classroom/lesson structure that created the overall disengagement.
    • Example observation: The classroom opens with homework review. The teacher does all of the work, and all of the talking. You notice that although students are quiet, they aren't present. Later on in the lesson the teacher has students practice what was just demonstrated. Students are given time and materials to practice and then are left to do this work individually. The teacher monitors the classroom from the front of the room, while marking papers, and occasionally states a student's name if they appear off task. You notice that students are not getting much work done.
    • Key questions: What do these two examples have in common?  What is the trend?