Thinking About Feedback

by Stephanie, November 18, 2019

Instructional coaches offer teachers feedback in multiple ways: observations, demonstration lessons, co-teaching, professional learning sessions and more. While I love all aspects of coaching, there is something powerful about observing classroom instruction with a lens on what is going well to learn about teachers and teaching. While in person observations are powerful, I have found that video observations are particularly important as well, especially in virtual coaching. 

Video tools are a powerful way to provide feedback on classroom practices and I have been using video in my in-person literacy coaching for years. As part of my coaching, teachers record clips of their teaching they would like feedback on. By recording and sharing, teachers are in full control over what I see and provide feedback on, lessening the angst that some teachers feel when inviting coaches into their classrooms. The feedback provided on these videos is incredibly important to the coaching process as it is living and in print. Forever. So I take great care in the kind of feedback I provide, tending to both quality, quantity and the tone of the comments. Here are a few guidelines when giving video feedback to teachers:
  • Comment frequently. It can feel risky to record and share a part of your teaching self with others. Earn teachers’ trust by commenting frequently to clearly show you appreciate their efforts and are invested in their learning.
  • Use the time-stamp feature. The beauty of virtual feedback is that we can literally freeze time. If possible, insert your feedback in time-stamped comments to directly connect your comments to instruction. 
  • Tag your comments. Tagging not only provides feedback for teachers, but helps you learn about yourself as a coach. By tagging your comments with labels such as celebration, wonderings, student engagement, materials, etc. teachers can easily identify the purpose of your comment. As a coach, you can easily see patterns in your feedback and can set goals for your own coaching. 
  • Remain positive at all times. Coaching is just as much about teachers’ spirits as it is their expertise. Comment freely on each positive element you see, from instructional techniques and language choices to student engagement and wall decor. Teachers need to notice what they are doing well, something other overlooked in their busy days.
  • Keep the goal in mind. As a coach, you might feel pressed to comment on as much as possible to give teachers the most out of the coaching cycle. But it is important to keep the teachers’ coaching goals in mind and focus constructive comments on those goals only. This will help focus your feedback and ensure the teacher is getting what he/she hoped for out of the coaching cycle.
  • Make it interactive. While comments are important, be sure to ask questions, wonder and hypothesize and generate a conversation. Coaching is not a one-way street where coaches only coach teachers. Coaches also learn from each coaching partnership as co-learners for the sake of students.

So, how do I remind myself of these important guidelines when giving feedback? I used to list them on a piece of paper and tack it to the bulletin board next to my laptop, but I would often forget to refer to them. Now, I create simple table tents (inspired by Jennifer Serravallo’s tabletents for student conferences) and prop them up wherever I am when I review the shared instructional videos. These are instant, tangible reminders to remind me what I want to accomplish when giving feedback. Like what you see? Go ahead and download it for your own coaching space and then let me know how you might create your own!

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