An observation isn't actionable until we reflect and debrief on what it tells us, and use that information to thoughtfully plan our next steps. An observation debrief needs to be focused and collaborative, and include establishing actionable next steps for the teacher. The best debriefs first ask the observed what their experience was. Critical elements of an effective debrief include returning to the purpose of the observation (i.e., collaborative log), guiding the observed to identify small wins (what worked), wondering why something didn't work (if that is the case) rather than naming it, and asking the observed for their thinking before, and during, suggesting next steps. Finally, an observation is intended to support growth, and therefore should not be personal in nature.
If not in place, this is a good time to pause and establish norms. See the strategy "Norms: The Secret Sauce to Productive Meetings" in the BetterLesson Lab.
Review observation notes. Highlight those that relate specifically to the purpose of the observation. It might be helpful to prepare open-ended questions, such as:
How do you think the implementation went? Why?
What impact on students do you think the strategy had?
What did you notice as you implemented the strategy?
What adjustments did you make … ?
Did you face any challenges during this class?
What do you think you might change about this strategy?
What do you think is a next step from this strategy?
With the teacher, review the notes made prior to the observation (purpose, steps, etc.).
Ask the teacher about how the strategy implementation went (see the open-ended questions above and in the collaborative log resources below).
Be sure to emphasize small wins from your observation. For example, if the teacher implemented academic talk stems for the first time and states that not many students used it, point out that this means some students used it.
Use questioning to lead the teacher to identify next steps. For example, "I'm wondering why some of these other students weren't using the academic talk stems?"
After giving the teacher time to respond (they usually nail it), it is appropriate to share some of your questions and wonderings. For example: "I'm wondering if students needed a copy of the stems to look at? I'm wondering if students had too many stems to start with? I'm wondering if students needed more time interactively modeling the stems? I'm wondering if the cognitive demands of the content were so high the students didn't have the "cognitive space" to add another complex piece of thinking?"
Continue discussing with the teacher to identify what their next implementation steps will be. Don't end the debrief until an actionable next step is identified and a time of implementation is named. Use questioning to make sure the next step is small enough to actionable and measurable. The questions in the Try-Measure-Learn Collaborative Log support this if you go back to the start of the log and begin the same process.
Ask the teacher how you can support their next steps. This emphasizes the true purpose of observation as incremental and continuous improvement, and builds the good will that makes this an effective practice.
In order to support teachers to debrief a after a coaching observation, a coach can use the Mind the Gap Protocol to see the teacher and students as learners in order to set clear and measurable next steps.
Ask for feedback after the debrief.
Printing high quality open-ended questions will help you to stay on the path of using questioning to guide the thinking. Keep in mind that this is a good practice to model. We want teachers to use open-ended questions with students, and initially a good way to support this is to write them down and keep them with you so they aren't forgotten in the moment.