Feedback is a crucial element in bringing new teachers into the fold, and it is vital that mentors, supervisors, and student-teachers work together to create and develop systems for giving and receiving feedback. While it’s impossible to provide you with a “one size fits all” feedback model, keep these principles in mind as you develop the system that works for you.
Effective feedback is timely
Work out a way to give feedback as close to the observation as possible. For some, this means speaking one-on-one directly after class or after the lesson. Others prefer to give or receive feedback at the end of the day. They may use text, email, One Note, or some other electronic medium. Still others schedule regular debriefs before school. There’s no one way to do this well, and much depends on work loads and other obligations. Still, this remains: setting up a predetermined time and method for giving and receiving feedback is one of the most important steps you can take.
Effective feedback is differentiated.
K-12 students often need their feedback tailored to their individual learning needs, and the same is true for student-teachers. Some people work well with verbal feedback, while others need to read it and then have time for processing. Some want to hear blunt, honest appraisals, while others work best with the “sandwich” approach (something positive, something that needs work, something positive). Effective feedback is delivered in such a way as to be understood and used by the person to whom it is directed. This means that mentors need to take the time to know their student-teachers, and student-teachers need to advocate for themselves.
Effective feedback is focused on the learning target.
The best feedback is aimed at a specific target. Instead of giving feedback on every aspect of the lesson, focus the feedback on one or two pre-determined areas of growth. Is your student-teacher having trouble managing transitions? Focus your feedback there. Is she struggling with pacing? Give her feedback with this in mind. This approach works best when student-teachers and mentors work together to identify growth needs and create specific goals before the lesson. When this happens, both the observation and the feedback snap into focus. This leads to incredible growth.
Effective feedback is supported with evidence.
Details matter. The more specific the feedback is, the more it can lead to improvement. A comment like “you need to pay more attention to the other side of the room” isn’t nearly as helpful as “did you notice how Jimmy and Alejandra were talking to each other while you were working with table 4? Every time you turned your back, they started giggling and whispering. Are there some other ways that you could sit so that you can keep an eye on what’s happening over there?”
Effective feedback is balanced.
A student-teacher’s successes – the effective lesson, the well-managed transition – need just as much feedback as her failures. What made the transition work? What’s your evidence? What should the student-teacher do again next time? How could this success be replicated or applied elsewhere? The most useful feedback focuses equally on that-which-needs-to-change and that-which-went-well.