Any business or well managed company relies heavily on customer input and comments to help guide the future of their establishment. Teaching, believe it or not, is no different.
After stepping away from a conference today titled, “Shifting Gears” presented by the New Jersey Department of Education, a point that resonates with me as an educator is the importance of meaningful feedback. In order to continue to develop my own skills and practices as a teacher, I require feedback from all the stakeholders involved my classroom.
Educators must have valuable and insightful comments made by their administration team based on the lessons observed and day to day interactions witnessed. By stepping into my classroom for one lesson at one point in the year, the administrator has a limited amount of feedback he or she can give to really help the teacher to grow and develop. With the new evaluation model, good teachers welcome the presence of their administrators on a more frequent basis because they want to be seen at different points in the year. This will allow administrators the lens they have been missing from past evaluation models- more time in the classroom + meaningful feedback for the teacher = effective teaching practices which help to develop student achievement.
A few more points of feedback that came to mind are student feedback for the teacher and teacher feedback of other teachers. Teachers can welcome their students at different points in the year, to share their own (anonymous) comments about how the class is organized and running. Teachers can set up online surveys or a Google form, to have this feedback take place in an environment where students feel comfortable to share their honest opinions. Another idea that comes to mind is with a professional development model of teachers learning from teachers. Using whichever evaluation model a local district has put into place, teachers can observe each others lessons and provide realistic feedback as to what they feel went well during the lesson and what maybe did not go so well. Teachers can help each other by targeting specific goals that they may have for themselves. Teachers can also learn new strategies and techniques from each other, by watching model lessons and providing constructive criticism to one another.
My final point in generating an environment which is structured around meaningful feedback is one which involves self-reflection. I often ask students to be self reflective in their study of the foreign language at the beginning and at the end of a unit of study. Consider a K-W-L chart to be used with students and then, transfer that same idea and apply it to the art of teaching. As teachers begin to reflect on their own practices, they can provide feedback to themselves by taking a closer look at their lessons, assessments and techniques used to engage student learning. Posing a different question/comment each month for a teaching staff to consider, may be a good starting point. Then, allowing for the articulation of these self reflective ideas & practices during department meeting time, may allow for these professionals to really make meaning of what they do each day and realize whether or not it is deemed to be effective or how it can be improved.
Ultimately, we all need feedback as to whether or not the job we are doing is the best it can be. When it comes to teaching, there is always room for improvement, no matter how many years one has been teaching. Just as our students, we must challenge ourselves to learn each day and better the everyday experiences in our classrooms.