Feedback Feedback Feedback

Like most teachers across Australia, I have just come off two weeks holiday. In that time I had the good fortune to visit a few different places for a mixture of work and pleasure. It started with a conference in the warmer climate of Cairns, a social weekend in Sydney before spending the second week on the sideline of a court being a netball dad. All three were enjoyable experiences with the third one being the most important and most pleasurable.

When I returned home to Wagga Wagga, I was still in holiday mode and lounging by the television when I noticed a television commercial which, in part, stated, “Get paid to give feedback” and go to http://www.sponsoredreviews.com/page/get-paid-to-blog.html.) This was after recent emails which requested (in some cases almost ‘pleaded’) for me to provide feedback of my recent experience. In fact, I was asked to provide feedback to Virgin Blue regarding my flights to and from Cairns, the Ibis Hotel in Cairns and Mecure Rutherford asked for feedback. Wotif asked for feedback. Each time I go banking online I am asked to provided feedback. Each time I telephone an organisation such as Telstra or Country Energy, I am asked to engage in 30 seconds of feedback at the end of the telephone call. These organisations obviously see “feedback as a gift”.

In teaching we often hear about the power of feedback. Hattie’s studies indicate time and time again that feedback impacts most positively on student learning outcomes. Taking this on board, teachers have worked hard on improving the quantity and quality of feedback for the students whom they teach. But, how often do principals and teachers actively seek feedback about their own practice? And, do they seek the right type of feedback?

The answers to these questions are not fixed and are impacted on any one school’s/teacher’s context and resources. Review of data for external examinations, and internal action research, often provides ‘food for thought’ to teachers about their practice. Well-being surveys and classroom surveys also provide invaluable insights for teachers looking to improve their vocation.  

In 2013 @matredeiwagga, the Assistant Principal (AP) has led a process which has real value. Starting at the beginning of this year, he asked staff about the possibility of each teacher surveying their students about the learning experience in their classroom. In doing so, the teaching staff revisited previous documents used for such a purpose, looked at student-centred pedagogy, the role of digital technology and examined latest research including the Gates Foundation Measuring Effective Teachers (MET) program. From these different perspectives we developed a draft classroom survey to give to students.

There were another two opportunities for teachers to comment on the survey. Each time, it was updated until it was finalised in early Term 2 and then the AP asked for teachers to volunteer for the survey experience. Well, he cannot keep up with the demand! It is a wonderful comment on our teachers and their willingness to embrace the importance of ‘student voice’. After a request from the teacher, the AP speaks with a class of the teacher’s choosing. He administers the survey to the class and reviews the feedback before passing it onto the teacher. (The reason he reviews it before the teacher is to identify any personal comments which have no place in a professional conversation. To this point in time, after some 14 surveys, there has been no need for the AP to delete a comment.) Once the teacher has had an opportunity to review the survey feedback, the AP meets with the teacher and has a coaching conversation with them. The findings of the survey are discussed confidentially between the AP and teacher. Without breaching any confidences, the AP reports that each discussion is a humbling experience where he witnesses teachers ‘taking on board the student voice’ about the learning experience as facilitated by the teacher.

The @materdiewagga experience reflects my strong feeling that feedback will always be valued by teachers when they have shared ownership of a feedback process which is focused on professional dialogue rather than judgement.

What does your school do to enable teachers to access worthwhile feedback about their practice?

Please let me know.

Greg.