Providing Informal Feedback to Teachers

Dec 4, 2016 by

Educators are often frustrated with the moving target that is the teacher evaluation system. While rubrics, point systems, and rating scales may change, informal feedback can provide a consistent opportunity for teachers to develop clarity about their practice and performance.

Appreciation of Positive Performance

Everyone deserves a pat on the back from time to time. It is critical for building leaders to create a system in which teachers are appreciated for their contributions. Such appreciation needs to be specific and sincere. Public appreciation serves two purposes. It provides the informal feedback to the individual and simultaneously provides positive reinforcement of desired practices for the staff as a whole. This leads to the development of a positive working culture that values best practice while it clarifies the desired behaviors utilizing specific examples within the organization. Including positive appreciation or kudos to individuals within staff memos is an approach to providing informal feedback.  Staff shout-out boards in which all staff (including the building principal) have the opportunity to acknowledge each other is another effective strategy to ensure this type of feedback occurs. See this article that includes creating a culture of recognition.

Developing Clarity

Informal feedback is a valuable communication tool. This type of feedback allows principals and teachers to establish clear criteria and norms for best practices. As long as the feedback occurs within a timely manner and provides specific examples the teachers can develop clear ideas of desired practices or interactions. Informal feedback should be two-way communication in that the principal may ask questions or provide specific examples allowing the teacher to elaborate or ask questions as well. This opens the door to a meaningful conversation that fosters reflection and growth in teaching practices. This article explains how evaluation including informal feedback can help teachers improve their craft.

Now What?

What really should happen after informal feedback has been provided? An effective principal will be sure that the feedback is not given with a one and done approach.  This article indicates for feedback to be effective it has to be ongoing. Within the feedback conversation, action steps need to be identified and mutually agreed upon especially if the feedback included constructive criticism. Resources that may be useful to the teacher could be identified and provided. Informal timelines should be put into place in regards to when improvements or specific lessons should take place as a result of the feedback. The principal also needs to establish continual support for the teacher in regards to follow-up meetings if needed.

The follow up to informal feedback is equally as important as the message itself. Ensuring that feedback and the follow up is delivered with the best of intentions, allows for two-way communication and builds a sense of trust will lead to improved practice from the teacher. To gain further ideas of “actionable” strategies that are forms of informal feedback click on this link.

Please share in the comments below how informal feedback has been utilized in your school?

Keywords: Communication, Professional Development, Best Practice, Teacher Evaluation, Employee Performance, Teacher Feedback

References

Danielson, C. (2011). Evaluations That Help Teachers Learn. Educational Leadership. Retrieved from: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/dec10/vol68/num04/Evaluations-That-Help-Teachers-Learn.aspx

Feldman, K. (2016). Actionable Feedback for Teachers: The Missing Element in School Improvement. Minnesota Association of School Administrators. Retrieved from:

http://www.mnasa.org/cms/lib6/MN07001305/Centricity/Domain/44/Feldman%20Actionable%20Feedback%20for%20Teachers.pdf

Hayden, J. (2012). The 9 Elements of Highly Effective Employee Praise. Inc. Magazine. Retrieved from: http://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/the-9-elements-of-highly-effective-employee-praise.html

Sachdeva, A. (1996). Use of effective feedback to facilitate adult learning. Journal of Cancer Education. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8793652

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