The Form, From & Function of Feedback

feedbackPlease excuse the alliterative title. Its use was positively promoted primarily through teachers teeming with functional feedback from several sources. Annoying isn’t it. My older brother rues the day I discovered alliteration’s annoying properties. You can picture the scene – a long car ride with nothing else to do but enrage your big brother enough to punch you so he gets in trouble with mom and dad. Yea, that’s where I honed my skills in verse while my brother provided me with ample feedback in the form of massive charlie-horses to my left thigh.

Feedback can come in many forms (not just a fist) from many sources (not just a brother) in an attempt to serve varying functions in the growth process. This post will address feedback in the form of critical questions from peers functioning as a catalyst for growth.

Form

“When information on progress is timely, specific, accurate, and focused on improvement, it has the greatest chance to positively affect the learner’s end performance.” [1] Of course the ability to provide effective feedback is not found in a professional development catalog or two hour take-n-bake workshop. The most important aspect of feedback is the critical question. Asking critical questions is a learned skill. “Spending the time early in the year to walk students [,or in our case, teachers,] through the process, provide them with specific examples, and highlight good instances of peer feedback is key.” [1]

From

Feedback may come from a teachers’s principal, coach, mentor, or peers.  When students were asked who they preferred provide them with instructional feedback, a majority stated their peers. “Some of the most powerful feedback that students receive can come from peer-to-peer interactions.” [1] What of teachers? We are evaluated by our principals, instructed by our coaches, and persuaded by our mentors. Our peers may also provide similar types of feedback, yet they can do so with minimal power dynamics. A peer, such a grade-level teammate, does not make hiring decisions like a principal, judge against curricular outcomes like a coach, compare us to a rubric as a mentor might. A peer simply tells it like it is, but with the ability to empathize with our plights regarding both curriculum and the developmental level of our students. Our peers “get it” cause they are right there along side us.

Function

What is the purpose of providing feedback to a teacher? Robyn Jackson stresses the importance of recognizing the type of needs a teacher has when determining the purpose of feedback. Jackson differentiates between skill and will when diagnosing need. The end game, according to Jackson, is to generate growth. “To move your school forward, you must move the people in it.” [2] Barbara Dill-Varga and Adam Roubitchek call this type of feedback”feeding forward”. [1] The key is to differentiate the feedback for each teacher.

“It is accepted as common knowledge that we have to adjust our instructional practice to meet the needs of all the learns in the classroom. But, when it comes to instructional leadership, oir appraoch is often one-size-fits-all.” [3]

To provide effective feedback, it first must be determined if the needs of the teacher are greatest in terms of motivation (will) or method/content knowledge (skill).

Conclusion

Feedback specific to pedagogy or motivation form a trusted peer can help a teacher move forward in their professional competencies. The feedback must be relevant and timely with a specific and actionable focus.

So, now I must leave you with one last annoying alliterative annotation.

The form and function of feedback from a friend is found to be fantastic!


References:
[1] http://www.ascd.org/ascd-express/vol10/1019-dillvarga.aspx
[2] Never Underestimate Your Teachers: Instructional Leadership for Excellence in Every Classroom by Robyn Jackson
[3] The Instructional Leader’s Guide to Strategic Conversations with Teachers by Robyn Jackson

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