Observation and Formative Feedback: Best Practices

Written by Steve Seward, Associate Director, MASSP

“Teaching is complex work. You don’t have to be bad to get better!”  Candi B. McKay

Regardless of age or role, we all deserve formative feedback for growth that is centered on clearly specified areas of focus and success criteria. Those that are most effective as leaders, in all educational capacities, consistently engage in the process inquiry through the gathering and gaining feedback for growth.

There are multiple ways to give and receive feedback and multiple uses of feedback. Most important is that feedback is provided based on a strengths-based approach. As John Hattie explains, “Feedback must be timely, relevant, and action-oriented”. The goal with formative feedback is to provide feedback that moves learning forward by causing the learner to think, and at the same time be the owner of their learning.

What might it look like when we:
  1. Focus on RELEVANCE through self reflection: teachers are provided success criteria (the teacher evaluation rubric), reflect on the success criteria, and personally select 3-5 of the success criteria to focus on for a period of time.
  2. Ensure feedback is ACTION-ORIENTED: administrators and teachers work collaboratively to gather observational data and artifacts in relation to the success criteria and analyze the data and impact,
  3. Provide feedback in a TIMELY manner: administrators share formative, targeted, feedback (within 48 hours) in relation to the success criteria.
  4. And finally, build in time for REFLECTION and CONVERSATION: teacher and administrator have multiple interactions to reflect on the feedback, ask questions, support the thinking of one another, and monitor progress over time.

Leaders can provide formative feedback that produces results while at the same time builds efficacy and craftsmanship. Think about these three ideas as an architecture for formative feedback:

  • First, the teacher needs to be APPRECIATED. Start the feedback by thanking the teacher for the opportunity to learn with, and from them, and their students.
  • Second, the feedback should contain 3-4 AFFIRMATIONS. These celebrations are specific pieces of evidence from the observation which include what the teacher and students are saying and doing connected to a positive impact or result.
  • Finally, the SPECIFIC & TARGETED FEEDBACK should consist of 1-2 specific actions the teacher might take to increase proficiency within the success criteria.

These actions must be connected to the teachers desired areas of focus, developed with a strengths-based approach, and written at the teachers level of proximal development so that immediate implementation can take place.

Most importantly, when providing formative feedback for growth, remember to place yourself in the role of the teacher, know your intentions, and never forget the complexity of teaching and learning. The purpose of formative feedback is to grow thinking focused on what the individual can do and is on the verge of doing.

Don’t miss my sessions at the West Michigan Education Leadership Conference on December 11th. I will lead two sessions entitled: Observation and Formative Feedback: Best Practices; and, Structures and Strategies to Promote Collaboration.

Join me and many other local presenters as we showcase successful practices in leadership.  The conference will kick off with Dr. Anthony Muhammad as the morning keynote and the afternoon keynote is Benjamin Gilpin, The Colorful Principal. You don’t want to miss this incredible opportunity for learning and collaboration.

Click here to register for West Michigan ELC today!

Steve Seward is a motivated, experienced, and energetic national presenter.  He  is the Associate Director at MASSP (Michigan Association of Secondary Principals), was trained as an early childhood educator, and now works with teachers, students, and administrators from Pre-Kindergarten to University levels.   His passions focus on building and sustaining collaborative environments, engaging in effective communication, planning and supporting systemic approaches for improvement,    and research-based instructional techniques to ensure success for all.  His unique presentation and facilitation practices along with his knowledge of content and personal experience will ensure high levels of learning and engagement.

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