How to Provide Feedback to Staff

Dr. Benjamin Washington
Dr. Benjamin Washington
High school assistant principal; Ed.D. in Educational Leadership
Two teachers walking down a hallway talking to each other.

Providing feedback is an integral part of the evaluation of teachers and the supervision of a school. By providing clear communication while giving feedback, the school administrator creates a positive environment and establishes school wide expectations to improve teaching and learning. Observation and providing feedback to teachers fosters reflection of goals and is necessary for continuous school improvement. In order to understand the importance of providing feedback to staff, we need to look at the goals of providing feedback and how timely feedback sustains growth for staff.

What is the Goal of Feedback?

The goal of feedback is to give specific observation-based information and evaluation for the growth and development of the staff. This feedback can include areas such as instruction of students, classroom management, and school culture. Supporting teachers and staff with timely, obtainable, and consistent feedback allows the opportunity for self-reflection and collaboration with colleagues as staff progresses towards a goal. Although there is a need for formal evaluations when it comes to feedback, there are benefits to providing informal feedback as well. The key is to provide situational and transparent feedback to complete goals for teaching and learning.

Why Does Feedback Need to be Timely?

Timely feedback is vital in order for communication to teachers and staff to be effective. Principals, assistant principals, and instructional coaches are able to see areas of strength and also areas that can be enhanced when feedback is timely. This also communicates to staff the importance of professionalism, letting the staff know that their building leaders are focused on helping teachers, staff, and students grow. Providing feedback does not have to always come in the form of a faculty meeting or a detailed report. Feedback can also come in the form of a short note on a teacher’s desk or a quick email stating what was enjoyable about an observation.

Strategies on How to Provide Feedback to Staff

Goal Oriented

Principals and other instructional leaders can be effective in providing feedback to staff. One strategy to effectively provide feedback is to encourage goal setting. The feedback should have specific goals that are tailored to the instructional needs of the students and the teacher delivering the content in the classroom.

Feedback for a school-wide initiative such as changing school culture should use data as a part of the goal setting process. For example, a principal could meet with his or her leadership team and break down parent and student engagement surveys. This can allow for goals to be set based on the data on transforming school culture to support student engagement and equity in learning.

Ongoing and Consistent

Providing teachers with opportunities to adjust and enhance their performance should be ongoing and consistent. Formative assessments give teachers the opportunity to see what areas of instruction need to be adjusted based on their student’s needs. Providing feedback to teachers on their assessments and teachers modeling this with their students gives both the instructor and student time to adjust their performance to achieve their specific goal.

In order for feedback to be useful, it must be consistent. Principals and assistant principals should be clear about the expectations of learning and school-wide priorities from the beginning. This gives the staff opportunities to continue to self-reflect on the school-wide goal and also allows for them to collaborate with each other towards completing their goal.

Specific

In order to accomplish a goal, the feedback must be specific. When providing feedback, instructional leaders need to have specific goals. Whether the goal is data-driven or one formed through conversations with educational stakeholders, having a specific goal will make clear what components need to change and what people and resources need to be involved to achieve the leadership goals.

Examples of specific growth goals for faculty and staff could be to raise the level of rigor when instructing students, increase supervision in the hallways, or have a specific number of documented phone calls home to parents, just to name a few.

Identify and Highlight Strengths

When providing feedback to teachers, it must be meaningful. One way to make feedback meaningful is to identify the strengths of the staff member before giving an example of an area that needs to show growth. For example, “Excellent job with planning your lessons in detail, your curriculum standards and your essential questions were visible on the board, and your transitions were timely; however I noticed a few students who seemed confused with the work and began talking to distract others. What are some ways you can keep those students engaged and ask them questions to check for understanding?” The principal was able to highlight the true strengths of the teacher, but also was able to address a problem with classroom management without making the teacher feel negative.

Encourage Professional Development

Professional development (PD) is a great way to help bring solutions throughout the year in addition to providing feedback. If the feedback is consistent, then the staff also needs consistent access to grow professionally and personally. This can come in the form of a PD session during a faculty meeting, graduate school degree programs, or personalized learning in the form of an online class dedicated to a specific skill.

Teaching and learning is an ongoing process that needs clear feedback and school building leadership that models high expectations for their school’s success. When educators have access to PD that is specific to their needs and feedback is consistent, the return on investment is personal growth and students that learn effectively.

*Updated December, 2020
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